The Underhanded Zune Launch

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You may have missed it but Microsoft launched what it calls its “iPod killer” the other day. The problem: nobody else would call it that.

That in the nutshell is the most underhanded launch of a product I have seen in a long time. Zune has come to life with terrible reviews and even objective reviews illustrate just how much is left to be desired. The video reviews are equally harsh. The most telling and perhaps the most critical take on Zune came from my local NBC affiliate in Orlando, FL:

I was watching the technology specialist join the anchors to discuss Microsoft Zune. After his initial 30 second pitch on the new “iPod Killer” he listed the two downsides but attempted to downplay them.

In words of my eloquent college roommates: Thats where you lost da ball game!

The anchors themselves tried to help but just dug Zune an even deeper grave:

But you can keep the songs you copy from others? Oh no?

So you have to buy them after 3 days?

So this doesn’t work with my stores?

So… umm..

And thats where the interview ended. It perhaps is where the Zune dies as well.

Microsoft did a phenomenal job replicating Apple’s attempt. Unfortunately, it lacks Apple’s adoption rate, Apple’s fanatical user base and the time to perfect the offering. In reality, Microsoft created a heavier, bulkier, less user-friendly iPod that shares the same features iPod users hate about their device: proprietary store with lackluster feature set driven to sell content from a single provider with little choice.Well, almost – unlike iPod which seamlessly works with its OS, Zune will require a patch to work with Vista. This my friends is like killing two birds with one ugly Zune – dead player and a dead promise of a seamlessly integrated OS that plays well with the gadgets. Did I mention it also now competes head to head with other device makers that supported Microsoft’s assortment of failed media stores, technologies and DRM schemes.

Microsoft likes to talk about how it helps its partners succeed. With this brillaint move Microsoft has really slammed its partners in Napster, Plays-for-Sure Family, Sandisk, Toshiba, nearly every Windows powered mp3 player. So which partner is going to win here? You’ve guessed it, the very partner that owes its entire existance to perhaps the worst $100 million dollar loan in the American corporate history: Apple Computer.