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Five things Microsoft must do to make Zune a success

By David Haskin
March 29, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Reindorp said the subscription service is essential to Zune, but Microsoft is looking at new options.

"The subscription service was a solid move on our part," he said. "We've seen 65% growth in our subscription base, although the number is still small. It could be better and it could become different -- we're looking at what other flavors of subscriptions there could be."

Among the options the company is looking at is pricing the subscription service like cell phone service.

"We've been looking at the subscription model where you pay a certain amount and you essentially get the cell phone for free," he said.

5. Make it sexy, make it work

Few would maintain that Zune is as sexy as the equivalent iPod. Nor does it have as many features. Both are issues that Microsoft must address soon, Rubin said.

"The devices itself isn't as sweet and sexy as the market-leading competition," Rubin said. "And they have a lot of catch-up to do in terms of features -- podcasts, games and things like that. These are personal entertainment devices and these devices need more sex appeal."

Insisted Reindorp: "Sexy is a subjective term. But in our research, the colors and color treatment scores high. Also, we're looking at an urban, inner city demographic, and some say that demographic leads fashion trends and we score well with that demographic."

Not the least of that catch-up has to do with simply making the device work well. Some Zune users expressed their vexation in blogs that the product was buggy and, this week, Microsoft released its third Zune firmware update. That update addresses problems related to synchronization and songs downloaded from Zune Marketplace not playing back correctly.

Overall, Reindorp said Zune's first five months have gone about as expected.

"We're looking at the introduction of Zune as being a matter of months and years, and not weeks and months," he said. "Stay tuned because we're going to continue enhancing the design of the devices."

David Haskin is a contributing editor specializing in mobile and wireless issues.

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