Last week Microsoft confirmed the name of its soon to be released digital audio player. It’s called Zune, and here’s what you need to know about it:
- Worst product name since Windows Vista. I’ll spare you the puns because you’ll be seeing plenty of those in the coming months. Apparently this is what happens when you hire Zsa Zsa Gabor as a naming consultant.
- Zune is more than a device, it’s a “family” of products. The Zune family will apparently include a portable audio play, a music manager, an online music store, and other devices to be named later. Microsoft seems set on building a Zune franchise, but if their past is any indication this could be a dysfunctional family.
- Zune Won’t Support Plays For Sure. According to Engadget, the service and device won’t be Plays For Sure compliant. For those of you living in an iPod/iTunes world, Plays For Sure is the DRM standard Microsoft has been promotion for a while now. The fact that they seem to be abandoning the standard with the release of their new product line is classic Microsoft. The companies who’ve built their business around Plays For Sure are apparently out in the cold. Microsoft still supports Plays For Sure, it just doesn’t work with “the next big thing”.
- When written in Hebrew Zune spells “Fuck”.
Transliterate the letters in Zune to Hebrew and you get something unexpected. Seriously, who named this thing?
- Zune Player Will Have WiFi Built-In. This is one of the more interesting Zune features. The built in WiFi will include some type of auto-discovery, similar to Bonjour, that will allow users to easily find and connect to other Zune users on the same network. Users will be able to share media and interact via social networking applications. Song sharing will, of course, be limited. The early reports indicate that a maximum of 10 users will be able to connect on one network segment (has anyone at Microsoft ever lived in a dorm?) and that users will need to bookmark a song for purchase before they can listen. Talk about pouring cold water all over a good idea.
- Battery Life Unknown. The batteries in early versions of the iPod nearly caused a consumer revolt. With built in wireless and a 400 MHz processor Microsoft would appear to be setting Zune up for a similar backlash. Expect the Zune to have a surprisingly short playback time per charge.
- Who’s Killing Who? While Zune has been continually referred to as an “iPod Killer” there is, apparently, already one Zune Killer in the works. Rhapsody is reportedly working on its own portable player to challenge both the iPod and Zune. The Rhapsody player will, of course, support Plays For Sure.
- Zune Will Be Viral. If you thought the hype surrounding Origami was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s almost as if Origami was a test campaign in preparation for the Zune release. The blogosphere is already littered with scores of Zune blogs. It’s starting to look like a fair number of these sites might be astroturf. Just wait for the video “leaks”.
- Zune will be expensive. The 30 GB version will reportedly be priced the same as a 60GB iPod at $399. Zune’s wireless connectivity and fast processor come with a price. The Zune user experience will have to be pretty amazing to get people to shell out that kind of money. It’ll be interesting to see if the Zune family includes lower priced models. Zune will hardly be an iPod killer unless it’s available at multiple price points.
- Zune Accessories. Microsoft is apparently attempting to convince iPod accessory manufacturers to produce similar accessories for the Zune product line. Unless Microsoft is willing to heavily subsidize this development with marketing dollars it could take some time for these products to develop. The iPod accessory market developed organically as the popularity of the device grew. Microsoft will need to sell an incredible number of these devices before a healthy market for accessories develops.