Poor J Allard. The one cool guy at Microsoft—he’s the one who brought us the original Xbox—is trying so hard with the Zune. But he’s no match for Steve Jobs.
Redmond’s answer to the iPod has been a relative flop so far. The 1.2 million Zunes sold since it launched a year ago amounts to less than three percent of the number of iPods sold during the same time (which is more than 40 million), and only about one percent of the 110 million iPods sold since 2001. So Allard is trying again with a revamped Zune that looks even more like the iPod, and comes in new flash-memory versions. That’s so nano of him. But what, no Zune phone? No sexy iTouch? Allard is still trying to catch up to where Apple was a year ago.
At least he is getting rid of the Zune brown (a color only a UPS delivery man could love). The wireless syncing with your computer sounds nice. And the Zune music store will soon offer one million DRM-free songs—yay! But if you share them with someone else the other person can still only play them three times. That’s Microsoft for you. They put the DRM in “DRM-free” music.
And to try to make the kids care about a second-class device that, well, no one cares about, Allard had his biggest brainstorm yet. The Zune, you see, is not just another MP3 player. It’s a social network! That’s where this whole Zune Social thing comes in. I just hope that this is not Microsoft’s answer to Facebook in case the investment deal doesn’t go through.
Zune Social is a social network for the one percent of the digital music player-owning population that have a Zune or will ever have a Zune so that they can share their playlists and samples of the songs on their Zunes. Hmm. Well, gee, I can already share the playlists of the songs on my iPod with services like Last.fm and Anywhere.fm. Or I can create my own playlists on imeem, where anyone else in the world can go to listen to every song on my playlist in its entirety for free, with the blessings of the music labels to boot. Even Apple is getting into the social music scene with My iTunes widgets that show off the songs you’ve bought. With so many other, more popular options out there in both hardware and online music services, who is going to bother to go to the Zune Social—other than Bill Gates and J Allard?