Microsoft "v. pleased" with brown MP3 player sales (and brown flight suit)

Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which Microsoft claims 10% of the market -- a million Zunes sold. Not to mention a video of the luckiest stunt pilot in the world...

Dan Fost and Ryan Kim talk to Robbie Bach:

Microsoft envisions a world of "connected computing," where devices like phones, music players and game consoles increasingly define how people interact with computers, [but] the company often finds itself playing catch-up. That's where Robbie Bach comes in. Bach, 45, is president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, which includes the Xbox game console, the Zune music player, software that runs on mobile devices and new television projects. While the division has yet to turn a profit, Bach said ... profitability is just around the corner, and Microsoft is relishing its competition with companies like Apple.

...

"We're still about nine months into having Zune in the marketplace. We're very pleased with the progress. We've sold a little over a million Zunes. In the category we're in, the hard-disk-based category, we've got about 10 percent market share ... There will be new things down the path (in the fall). We just came out with a special edition pink Zune and a watermelon-colored Zune ... When your installed base is a million, the benefits of [Wi-Fi] sharing, frankly, aren't as wide as we hope to see in the future.

...

"From a strategy perspective, we've been focused for a while on what we call connected entertainment ... Microsoft can differentiate itself, because it's a strategy that relies on software and services. Those are both things where we have a competitive advantage ... competing with Apple aggressively is fun. I enjoy that. They're a great company and a worthy competitor ... Apple is very good at design; they come up with interesting approaches to products."

Brandon Hill adds perspective:

Even though Microsoft shipped over a million Zunes, it's still well behind segment leader Apple which recently celebrated its 100 millionth iPod sold after nearly six years on the market. As of February 2007, the iPod commanded 73.7 percent of the MP3 player market. Microsoft's 2.4 percent share was good enough for fourth place behind SanDisk and Creative Labs.

Microsoft is expecting a rather large uptick in sales leading up to the 2007 holiday season. The company is building a new manufacturing plant in China which will produce a second-generation HDD-based Zune along with a flash-based Zune.

Joey deVilla scoffs:

A million fools and their money have been parted somehow — Mind control? Bribes? “Buy this Zune or we’ll kill this puppy”?

...

As good as this news is for Microsoft, this is even better news for you if you’re about to do some dog-and-pony shows for investors. You can simply pull out this story and say “This is why we’ll be able to find customers: somewhere, out there, are at least a million people who’ll buy anything.”

Dan Dorato wondered if he was missing something, so:

This weekend I made a conscious decision to give my iPod a week off and go Zune only. Come on, the thought of access to unlimited subscription music, and FM radio (not a fan of the brown, but whatever). So, I kicked my second laptop into BootCamp, made the Vista plunge and installed the Zune software.

Long story short; the software installation process was quite possibly the worst experience ever, but that was quickly eclipsed by the HORRIFIC ass backwards annoying Zune software/syncing experience. After HOURS of coaxing I think I have the damn thing working. I’ll report back at the end of the week on how the rest of the experience was, but I am left puzzled HOW Microsoft sold a million of these.

Robert "deep throat" Scoble passes it on:

Someone whispered in my ear that there will be a new Zune this year. I was told to “think widescreen.” Hmmm.

Nicholas Deleon thinks he's seen the future:

Toshiba’s original Gigabeat is among the most successful non-iPod portable media players (PMP) out there, boosted by the fact that Microsoft used it as the basis for the Zune. Whether or not this new Gigabeat, the Gigabeat V, will be the basis of Zune 2(or Zune Too, or whatever hip, focus group-tested name Microsoft gives it) is yet unknown, but Toshiba’s player does its best to stand out from the crowd. The big draw here is its 4-inch 480 x 272-pixel resolution screen. And on that screen you’ll be greeted with a Windows Media Center-like interface, which is good or bad depending on your point of view.

The Gigabeat V is as close to a Microsoft-only PMP as you can get, with video playback limited to Windows Media Video files and no support for AAC or FLAC or any other codec other than MP3 and WMA, including WMA 9 Lossless. Um, does anybody use WMA Lossless? Just checking. The battery life, typically the death knell for many PMPs, actually isn’t too bad, rated at 28 hours during audio-only playback.

But Jesus Diaz pours cold water:

Unlikely, as Zune v2 is supposedly going to be an in-house design

Paul Colligan has some suggestions:

  • Turn On Podcasting ASAP. Turn on the software element that lets us grab Podcasts on the Zune. We know you have it ...
  • Extend Podcasting's Feature Set ... Imagine a world where one Podcaster beams their Podcast to another (or one fan to another) and when they return to the Zune Marketplace, they get a message along the lines of "Would you like to subscribe to the Podcast you were recently beamed?" ...
  • Embrace the Podcasting Community. Apple has embraced Podcasting (not bad having a media revolution fall into your lap with your mark associated with it) but has pretty much ignored the Podcaster ...
  • Give Zune Another Killer Feature ... Portable rental videos come to mind ...
  • Find Some Very Cool Xbox 360 Tie-Ins. And find them fast. Apple has the iPod/Apple TV story - you can have a Zune/Xbox story ...
  • Get The Story Straight. Zune went to market at amazing speeds ... But, you can't let the time to market be less than the time from market to message. The Windows Media 11 / Urge/ Zune Marketplace / Plays for Sure thing is a mess ...
No charge, Bill, for this consulting session.

Bayoudegradeable ponders the million:

1,000,000 sold to vendors perhaps? Sold to customers might be different but if there are 1 mil Zunes on shelves or in stock out there M$ can claim "million sold."

FatherOfONe agrees:

I look at what MP3 player they are listening to and I can say that I have never seen ANYONE using a Zune. I work in I.T. and am surrounded by a few Microsoft lemmings and yet none of them have even jumped on the bandwagon yet. Some of them won't buy an Ipod out of their hatred of Apple, but yet won't buy a Zune.... That says a lot.

...

I say that Microsoft is channel stuffing much like it did with the 360 and that the sales are probably far closer to 500k than 1 million.

ivan256 thinks it's reasonable, but pathetic:

They don't sell Zunes to end users. They sell them to distributors and retailers. If they collected money for a million units, they've sold a million units. If every WalMart, Target, and BestBuy still has 4 on the shelf, Microsoft still "sold" a million units, even though only half of that is in the wild.

...

Not that it matters anyway. Saying you've sold a million at this point is admitting defeat. Apple sold that many players last week. A million in almost a year is horrible and complete failure.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Video: the luckiest stunt pilot in the world

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon