Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zune debuts at #2

Zune replaces Sandisk as the second best selling digital music player. It grabbed 9% of the unit sales, with a 13% of the dollar value due to its higher per-unit price. Some are calling this a successfull launch, but I think it's still too early to call: many of the early adopters would have bought the unit in that first week, so we may see a significant drop in sales in the following weeks.

One indicator of this is Amazon sales ranking: when Zune debuted it was in the top 10 best selling MP3 players, although it has slipped to # 17 only days later. Of course, the fact that there is only one model of Zune is working against Microsoft, since Apple covers the gamut with Shuffle, Nano and full-sized iPod.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A few unnoticed Zune foibles

As the Zune marketing campaign ramps-up some of the info on device is starting to get out. Some of it is disappointing:
  • Zune will not show up as a removable drive in Windows - this is somewhat perplexing; this type of functionality can be very useful and many people rely on it. Most of Zune's competitors can be used as external storage devices.
  • Weird pricing on Zune Marketplace - I am not sure how this works in practice but Walt Mossberg reports that "the point system is deceptive. Songs are priced at 79 points, which some people might think means 79 cents. But 79 points actually cost 99 cents." I don't see how they could have implemented something like this without upsetting a lot of customers.
  • Songs shared through Zune are marked as "played" after only a minute of a song has been heard. If you stop playing the song at that point then restart later it would be counted as the second play. You only get three plays in three days to listen to songs people send to you.
  • If you share your own unprotected content (like a plain-jane MP3 file) it is covered by the same 3-by-3 limitations on the receiving Zune.
  • You cannot pass a beamed song to another person, nor can you be beamed the same song twice.
  • Zune is bigger than the 80Gb iPod, which has almost three times the storage and double the battery life (without using wireless on Zune).
  • You need a special Zune player to manage Zune on your computer, Windows Media Player won't work.
  • Zune's central "wheel" isn't a wheel, it won't turn nor is it touch-sensitive, it's just four buttons in the shape of a wheel.
  • There are no extras like games, calendar or alarm; there is no FM or Line-In recording either. It also has no support for podcasts.
  • It only works with Windows, no MacOS or Linux client (iPod works with all three).
  • Many other small oddities that were widely reported, the device won't be able to play PlaysForSure or iTunes purchased music, the only wireless functionality is to send music to friends (no wireless sync for example), bigger screen but same resolution as iPod so it doesn't look as crisp, etc.

I still want to check it out in person. It's really too bad they only have a one-size-fits-all model, I'm sure in the months to come they will be releasing new models.