The Microsoft Zune™ digital media player and online service will be available to consumers in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 2006.
Microsoft (MSFT) claims to be putting the social back into digital music. Translated: they hope it’s an iPod killer and iTunes replacement for Christmas ’06. The device retails for $249.99 U.S. and the marketing hype states it will create new ways for entertainment fans to connect and share media experiences device-to-device through use of wireless technology. The device requires a Zune Pass subscription at $14.99/month to open up that new market of “social” music connectivity as well as access “millions” of songs. It’s that wireless element that has caused debate.
Why is Microsoft interested? Apple (AAPL)has sold ~65 million iPod’s and according to Sam Bhavnani, iTunes has ~100 million users — mainstream users who use, are educated, and accustom to the Apple music/video download model and user interface. And, they recently announced their one-billionth download on iTunes. Yep, the iPod is in Microsoft’s sights.
Microsoft’s creative strategy to include a social community with the device is very cool. I’ve blogged on social communities and how online social networking has become an incredible phenomenon. A typical social networking site, say like Facebook or MySpace, you create an individual profile detailing your age, location, whether you are in a relationship, plus your general interests, favorite music, movies and books etc.,. You might upload photographs of yourself and write daily journal entries. You build up a set of online friends, each of whom will have their own set of friends, and so on.
It’s not clear what set of features/functions the Zune device will incorporate at launch in it’s social network, but in a recent interview with Apple CEO, Jobs was ask if the iPod competitor has him worried?
In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.
Besides being a clever sound bite, the point is spot on in that technology can often lose sight of the simple and/or obvious. “Social” is just that. It’s about interaction and conversations between people and not an exercise in “mental calisthenics” to waste time working with technology. It’s about getting what you want done. Time will tell if the Zune social community will evolve to an integral part of everyone’s daily life. Microsoft surely hopes it will. People participate in social networks and often prefer networks set up for other people they can relate too.
Sharing your music library while connected by two feet of headphone cable is a simple social network.
For certain youth demographics, it’s the ear-bud stupid! This just makes sense.