26. November 2006 · Comments Off on Could the Zune Kill the iPod? · Categories: Technology

Perhaps I’ve been too easy on Apple and too hard on MicroSoft. Mike Egan has some opinions that I can’t argue against too stridently, but I will.

Zune: So you want to be an iPod killer

Microsoft’s Zune finally shipped, and everyone agrees: It’s nice but definitely no “iPod killer.” But it could be. And should be. I’ll tell you how in a minute.

In my Computerworld column Why Microsoft’s Zune scares Apple to the core, I argued that, unlike Apple’s overconfident iPod fans, Apple itself is taking Zune very seriously. In that column, I listed Zune attributes and Microsoft capabilities that could hit Apple where it counts—profit margin and market share. I never argued that Zune would be better than the iPod, or even that Zune would succeed. My sole point was that Apple is taking the Zune seriously as a threat to its profitable and dominant iPod line and has good reason to do so.

How to kill the iPod

The Apple iPod is beautiful, sleek and simple. Microsoft will never sell a media player that is more elegant than the iPod. That’s just not going to happen, given the DNA of each company. What isn’t inconceivable, however, is that Microsoft could create a Zune that’s more desirable than the iPod. After all, the Mac is more elegant than Windows, but most people prefer Windows. And that’s how Microsoft can kill the iPod: Make the Zune more like a Windows PC.

Let me say that in another way: The Zune can succeed not by copying the iPod, but by becoming the “Anti-iPod.”

He’s got a point. While I love my iPod and am excessively pleased with my switch to a MacBook Pro for my laptop, I know some people want the ability to muck around with their computers. Me? I’ve become tired of mucking about a computer when I’m not getting paid to muck about. When I’m at home, I just want my computer to be stable and to work well. It doesn’t bother me a bit that I haven’t wanted or needed to access my Mac’s kernel. Writing scripts bores me. I find it tedious. One of our commenters in a previous post mentioned the difference between a Mac and a PC was like the difference between a new Mercedes and a 68 Mustang. You’re going to be messing around with the Mustang and you’ll enjoy it. You get the Mercedes because you want to enjoy your driving. That’s where I’m at. I want to enjoy my computing, I don’t enjoy all the mechanics as much as I used to. Besides, I can customize my Mac right out of the box much easier than I could my PC without having to dig through layers and layers of menus.

Later in the same article he asserts that we want a multi-function handheld, Phone, Camera, Music Player, Email receiver and that if the Zune turns into that, it may knock the iPod down. My answer to that is, it would have to do all of those functions exceptionally well. The thing about my cellphone/camera is that it’s a lousy camera. My iPod is an amazingly easy to use music player. With the iPhone in next year’s future, I don’t think, I know that it will be elegant and functional before it’s released.

Yes, I’ve become an Apple-phile. I prefer the elegance and functionality vs the kit/do-it-yourself mentality of the Windows PC community. Lazy? Okay. Maybe. But my Mac has locked up twice since I’ve had it, once when I was trying to install Windows Media Player and once when I was trying to mess around with a beta version of Seamonkey vs the stable release.
Give me a device that works as well, right of the the box as my iPod and MacBook did and I’ll consider whatever they throw at me. I know that sooner or later you’re not going to be able to find just a music player or just a phone. Trying to find a flat panel scanner that WASN’T a printer was damn near impossible a couple of months ago. Multi-function seems to be the deal these days.

I blame Gen X’s fascination with Transformers.

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