By now you’ve already heard the big news everyone is talking about. That’s right, Microsoft just lowered the price of the Zune. Pretty exciting, huh?
Apple’s response to this earth shattering news? A revamped lineup of iPods, including the all new iPod Touch. The Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone (or the two year AT&T contract for that matter). It’s pretty much exactly the device I speculated about in July. The iPod Touch is also everything Microsoft’s Zune should have been when it was launched late last year.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Microsoft partisans were crowing about how the Zune would ultimately beat the iPod, because of it’s larger screen and built-in WiFi. The WiFi, in particular, was going to be a killer app. In retrospect, the Zune’s WiFi was a killer app alright — it was the manner in which Microsoft chose to implement the WiFi that ultimately killed the Zune.
When they write the story of how Microsoft let Apple win the digital media war they’ll devote a whole volume to the failure of the Zune. In theory, the Zune could have done nearly everything the iPod Touch does. Aside from the iPod Touch’s touch screen, the Zune had all of the other major features in place: larger screen, built-in WiFi, slick user interface.
Somehow Microsoft was never able to put the pieces together in way that actually met consumer expectations. Prior to the Zune’s release everyone assumed the device would have some sort of Internet access. If nothing else we all learned a valuable lesson from the Zune: WiFi-enabled does not always mean Internet access.
As we all eventually learned, Zune’s WiFi couldn’t actually be used to connect to the internet, let alone buy songs online. The only apparent use for Zune’s wireless connectivity was to share crippled songs with other Zune users, provided you could find another Zune user.
The iPod Touch, by contrast, does everything you would expect it to do. The built-in Safari browser allows you to surf the web just as you would on an iPhone, and the new wireless iTunes store allows you to buy songs online directly from your iPod. The only thing missing is peer-to-peer song sharing with a three days or three plays limitation — although something tells me consumers aren’t actually clamoring for that feature.
The iPod touch goes on sale later this month and will be available in 8GB and 16GB capacities. I’ve already heard some grumbling about the Touch’s limited capacity, but I’m not complaining. If you want more storage you can grab one of the newly rechristened iPod Classics. Same old iPod, lots more storage. The entry level is now 80GB for a mere $249 (that’s only $50 more than the newly repriced 30GB Zune). A 160GB will set you back $349 (less than the 80GB was selling for yesterday).
Then there’s the whole new line of extra-slim, but curiously wide, video enabled iPod Nanos. I keep hearing that Microsoft is planning to release a flash based Zune later this year. At this point there’s no reason to believe it will be a Nano killer.
Oh well, there’s always the Zune phone. I can hardly wait for that one.