Zune vs. iPod (and dunking stats.)

Listen to this: it's IT Blogwatch, in which Microsoft launches Zune, to compete with Apple's iPod. Not to mention vital cookie dunking statistics...

Elizabeth Montalbano has the four-one-one:

Microsoft's Zune music player to ship in time for holidays. Rival to iPod features wireless technology, FM tuner ... will hit U.S. retailers in time for the busy holiday season, with a 30GB digital media player and an online media marketplace the first to reach consumers ... similar to what Apple already offers, with a couple of exceptions. In addition to allowing users to play music, videos and photos on a screen, the Zune player will include wireless technology and a built-in FM radio tuner. So far, iPods lack either radio tuners or built-in wireless technology.

Zune's wireless technology will allow users to share songs, playlists and photos between Zune devices, Microsoft said. A user can listen to any song received up to three times over three days, after which the listener  must buy  it from the Zune Marketplace to continue listening.

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If other attempts to unseat the iPod are any indication, Microsoft will have a tough road ahead. Recently, Dell Inc. stopped selling its DJ Ditty music player on its Web site and ended development of its own line of music players.

Still, iPod market share has fallen in the past year, leaving room for rivals in the market. At one point the music player had more than 80% market share by analysts estimates, but the latest reports give the iPod a little over 70% market share.

John Biggs gets the social networking angle:

The Zune has 802.11 networking built in and you can send a song to your friend ... The goal, obviously, is to sell music. However, we could also conceivably see this as a MySpace-like network of users who pop music to each other with giddy abandon and infect others with their musical stylings on the train (perhaps a sandwich board that says “I’ll Send My New HARDCORE RAP Single to Your Zune. Talk to me. Please?”) Once you get back home you can connect to the Zune Marketplace - and presumably an artists home page - where you can learn more and buy music.

Clearly all the data isn’t in yet, but this definitely pushes the MP3 player out of the pocket and into the realm of social networking. The question, obviously, is what is Apple going to do about this and, as a corrallary, how low Apple and Creative shares are selling as we speak? Perhaps MS could create a “Zune Inside” logo for those guys? Or maybe fund a halfway house for underconnected MP3 players?

Staci Kramer adds:

Years ago people got a kick out of beaming Palm cards, now Microsoft hope Zune owners will wirelessly share music, playlists and pictures. It’s not music-sharing nirvana: song sharing is limited to homemade recordings and full-length “sample tracks of select songs.” Users can listen to any song that’s received up to three times over three days — gack, more exploding media — then can flag a desired song on the device and buy it from the Zune Marketplace.
Carl Howe says Microsoft's thrown away its hope to steal Christmas from Apple:

Two days after Apple refreshed and lowered the prices on its iPod line (and thereby wrought havoc on Microsoft's launch plans), Microsoft today announced its own 30 Gigabyte Zune music player. This first product in the Zune line is, in fact, a rebadged Toshiba Gigabeat.

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But from a marketing point of view, this was not really an announcement, since Microsoft neither announced the price nor made the product available to consumers. Microsoft also declined to mention a launch date. Yet, the lack of any actual product didn't stop Microsoft from immediately positioning Zune as a platform.

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But consumers don't care about platforms. They want music players that look cool, work seamlessly, and don't require paying monthly fees forever to listen to their own music. And pre-announcing a product without pricing, availability, and actual services is just a waste of a press release.

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Microsoft may have thought it needed to do this announcement to respond to Steve Jobs' event this week and staunch the new flood of iPod sales. But if Microsoft thought they were going to spoil Apple's biggest iPod Christmas ever, it just threw away one of its chances to do so.

Microsoft's J Allard talks to Gizmodo:

The wrong consumer to start with is ... the one who says "You'll take my ipod from my cold clammy hands." People love their social networks, though. If they're over email, IM, or on the web, it's integrated into their lives. We want to bring that to portable music. Digital music is far front done. Ipod is the Pong of digital music. Let's take it to the next level. And connected is what its all about. The other thing is video. It's a much more inclusive part of people's life. Especially tail end video [referring to Wired and Chris Anderson's Long Tail theories]. How do we bring that to pockets? Oh yes: People said we want a bigger screen [than the ipod].

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New Zune devices will come. They'll be fun, they'll be exciting. But like Xbox, we're going to keep adding features to the core idea. We're just scratching the surface with the WiFi and peer-to-peer connectivity. Put WiFi in, start with one or two scenarios that users will understand. A few times a year, we'll update the firmware, and let consumers do new and exciting things.

Meanwhile, Apple Insider has pictures of the new iPod Nano packaging:

The new second-gen iPod nanos began arriving in the United States in somewhat limited quantities on Wednesday. Each new nano ships in a completely translucent, hard plastic container that elegantly showcases the player while neatly tucking away the few accessories it includes. Along with the iPod, Apple packs a pair of headphones, an accessory adapter, USB cable and iPod nano Quick Start booklet. The player no longer ships with a protective sleeve.

Although the new nano is precisely the same height and width of its predecessor, Apple has conveniently (for its margins) offset the dock connector by about a millimeter, making the new nano completely incompatible with the first-generation iPod nano dock. Similarly, users will also have to plunk down extra change for a new pair of iPod nano lanyard head phones -- the new nano's headphone jack is spaced further away from the dock connector. 

Jeremy Horwitz answers FAQs about the new iPod range:

At 1.07” by 1.62” by 0.41” and 0.55 ounces, the iPod shuffle has changed the most dramatically from its 3.3” by 0.98” by 0.33”, 0.78 ounce predecessor. It is like an aluminum-clad version of the iPod Radio Remote, and only as much thicker as the added aluminum would suggest ... it is less than half the height of the old iPod shuffle and only a little wider; most of its body is thinner than the shuffle, but with the clip on the back it’s comparable.

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Apple now sells the iPod nano in five colors - silver is the only color available for the 2GB iPod nano, while silver, pink, green, and blue are all 4GB colors, and black is the only color available for the 8GB iPod nano.

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Those new Apple pack-in earphones [are] not as iconic as the past iPod earbuds, and will most certainly “blend in” a lot more with the crowd. But they sound good, feel noticeably lighter and softer in your ears, and preserve the best other features of Apple’s prior pack-ins: good sound, tiny headphone port plug, integrated length manager after the Y-splitter, and two-tone (white and gray) styling.

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iPod nano now runs for 24 hours on a single charge, versus 14 hours for the prior model.

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By storage capacity standards, the 80GB iPod is the best value in iPod history - under $4.50 per Gigabyte, and the cheapest top-of-line iPod Apple has ever introduced. Even the 1GB shuffle is only slightly more expensive than the now discontinued $69 512MB iPod shuffle.

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And finally... Vital cookie dunking statistics [yes, a cookie's a "biscuit" in Britain]

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 © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

 
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