Zune, The iPod Killer That Never Was

by James R. Stoup Aug 29, 2006

I was quite disappointed recently when I read that Microsoft’s much hyped iPod competitor was just a repacked Toshiba player with some different software. Afterwards I felt a bit foolish, but I couldn’t help it, I really was sad at the news. Because I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft would surprise me. I must admit, I was a little worried that its new player might have some cool new features the iPod wouldn’t. I began to fret (just a little) that it might indeed offer an actual challenge to the iPod. I thought (however briefly) that the era of iPod dominance might be in just the smallest amount of trouble.

But no, I was wrong.

Houstan, we do not have a problem.

Microsoft isn’t working on a new, secret, innovative product. it isn’t even working on a home-grown product. It is just repackaging a decent player from Toshiba and adding some better software to it. How. . . boring.

I had kind of hoped that the company would come out with something, I don’t know, cool? Something with style. Something that was easy to use and would have the potential to become a real threat to the iPod. In short, I wanted something that would add a little drama to the “MP3 player-wars.” Instead, once all the smoke cleared and the mirrors were taken down and I could actually see what Microsoft had in the works I was nonplussed.

Maybe Zune 2.0 (if it even lasts that long) will offer more of a challenge, but I don’t think so. The reasons for such a tepid product offering can be blamed on any one of Microsoft’s numerous faults and since I don’t think any of those problems will get fixed any time soon (if ever) I can only conclude that Microsoft is just going to concede the lion’s share of the market to Apple while it tries to control that remaining 15%. What a shame that there will be no Wellington to meet Apple’s Napoleon. No Patton to strive against Rommel. This isn’t even David vs. Goliath, but rather something more along the lines of General Lee vs Ed the gardner. The battle to come looks neither pretty nor interesting. What a shame.


  • If that’s the Zune in the entry image at the top, then I’m quite impressed by the simplistic look and the large screen. However, as with phones and most other devices out there, after the ‘honey-moon’ period looks no longer play a factor - it’s the way it works.

    It’s biased of me to say but iPod is still the better looking out of the Zune (based on above) and Sonys most recent Walkman player (NW-A1000?), although I do like the futuristic look of that one.

    Of course, as has been said plenty of times before, the iTunes/iPod combination is spot on at the minute, so much so that I don’t think anyone will replace it for a long while.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 104
  • The Creative Zen Vision M series


    And the Sandisk Sansa player

    are better designed and better looking than the Zune will ever be.

    But one deficiency that ultimately dooms these wonderful designs: iTunes compatibility. None of these competitors can interact with iTunes or purchase FairPlay tracks from iTMS.

    Too bad Apple does not share FP and keeps iTunes locked to just the iPod’s firmware. It is a good thing for us then that Apple has designed the iPod hardware to be the most elegant and useful device to play our boatload of music collection, eh?

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 846
  • I think you meant “Houston, we do not have a problem.” 

    I’d normally forgive a misspelling, but the name of a whole city?  The fourth largest in the U.S?  In a paraphrase of a direct quote?  And the “a” and the “o” are on opposite sides of the keyboard.  Come on, James…

    Good content, though.  I agree.

    destructo had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 11
  • As with anything else MS related… More hype than content.

    Funny though it starts WITH a blue screen.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 172
  • Because I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft would surprise me.

    This is almost certainly a lie.  You’ve claimed before to root actively for Microsoft’s failure at every endeavor.  The idea that you would hope in any way for ANY competition for the iPod, let alone from MS, stretches even your strained credibility.

    I must admit, I was a little worried that its new player might have some cool new features the iPod wouldn’t.

    It does.  Wi-fi being the one I look forward to hearing about the most; it also, I think, features an FM tuner and transmitter. 

    And I don’t see how the fact that MS is rebranding a Toshiba player (which seems to be the basis of this latest screed) makes any difference about the feature-set or the viability of the player.  Who cares if it’s made by Toshiba or Microsoft?

    I think the design is pretty good and I’m intrigued by the features.  But if it simply gets Apple to add wi-fi to the iPod, then great.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Zune is NOT a rebranded or “repacked” product.

    Microsoft designed the product (or set the requirements), and Toshiba manufactures it.

    Apple does the same thing with the iPod.

    Please try to prove me wrong by showing me the Toshiba product with the same hardware. Here, I’ll give you a head start:

    Tiger had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 14
  • Tiger,

    Meet the Toshiba 1089 aka Microsoft Zune. Here are some links for you:


    You see, Apple designs the iPod and then has another company actually build it (since Apple doens’t own any factories). You should not get this confused with Microsoft who didn’t design any hardware but instead licensed Toshiba’s technology. Now, I am sure they added their own software, but it is quite a bit different from what Apple does.

    So, there you go, I proved you wrong. You can appologize now. Here, I’ll give you a head start:
    “James, my mouth wrote a check my ass couldn’t cash. Please forgive me for doubting you. Next time I will do my homework before I speak.”

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 122
  • remenber microsoft thing what was it called the Amoeba ..no orogame…no, no,no its the orgami…I think ....yes….I still I have not seen anybody using that thing….have you ? where ? where is the orgami thing ..? where can see one and what does it do? ...If zune is anything like origami ..microsoft should stick to making software ..that is what they are great at..(right)........

    gogoapple had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 3
  • James,

    I think Tiger’s point is that the Zune isn’t a rebranded Toshiba that has already been released to the public; from what I’ve read about this “Toshiba 1089” it’s actually the Zune player itself.

    Whether it was designed solely by Toshiba or together with Microsoft hasn’t really been revealed, so you can’t use your links to prove Tiger wrong; in fact, they actually make his case stronger.

    MojoJojo had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 14
  • From the Engadget article: “Instead it looks like Microsoft got their good pal Toshiba to produce the Zune, which not only saves Microsoft the job of gearing up some production lines for the thing, but seems to keep them from stepping on at least one PlayForSure licensee’s toes.”

    It sounds basically like what Tiger says, although neither article is definitive.

    But again, whether it’s rebranded or not, what difference does it make in terms of features or competing with the iPod.  The premise of this “article” is that “it’s rebranded and THEREFORE it will have no compelling features and will not compete with the iPod.”  What sense does that make, even coming from Stoup?

    From the same article: “From the looks of things, Pyxis seems to be the name for the network which Zune devices will use to share content
    “Pyxis allows you to stream music to up to 4 other Pyxis devices.” A bit more confusing, however, is that “You can invite other Argo members that you meet to be your friends wirelessly.”

    That sounds very new and very, very interesting.  I have a 16 year old sister, and this kind of thing sounds right up her alley.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • James, Thanks for the clarification and the head start!

    I think most of us can agree that the Zune launch is looking more and more like a still birth.

    I’ve never seen a Zune article that mentions how horrible the user interface is going to be. (Thanks for mentioning it, Beeb!) Based on the instructions in the user manual, the U.I. is likely to be difficult, require too many actions, and be annoying to use. If you think the hardware is so-so, just wait for wonders of the Microsoft U.I.

    “Houston, We have a problem.” Indeed!

    Tiger had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 14
  • Wi-Fi in the Zune will be a like the New Orleans levee after a category 4 hurricane. And I don’t mean its revolutionary design or performance. Wi-Fi will just drain the sh*t out of the battery. You wait and tell me I was wrong.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 29, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Is anyone honestly going to use Wi-Fi though? I can’t see how we’d legally be able to share music between more than one player. Sure, we could purchase tracks on the go in a ‘hot-spot’ area, but how long will that novelty last?

    I see you can ‘stream’ music from other devices, but isn’t this like a dodgey radio network and again, illegal? I’m not 100% up to scratch with how all this will work so feel free to fill me in, anyone.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Aug 30, 2006 Posts: 104
  • Is anyone honestly going to use Wi-Fi though?

    It’s amusing to me that some are so incredulous about this feature.  Can you imagine any of these doubts surfacing if Apple had announced wi-fi for the iPod (which they will inevitably do)?  Think different, my ass.  “Apple hasn’t included it so it therefore must be useless or illegal!!”

    I’ll give you just one example of how I’d use it RIGHT NOW if my iPod had wi-fi.  I mostly keep my iPod connected to speakers in my bedroom.  My wife uses it while she nurses our baby, but I also use it at night while I’m working on my laptop in bed.  My iMac is in my office on the other side of the apartment. 

    My iTunes updates every hour with podcasts that download automatically, without my having to be there.  To update my iPod and listen to the new updates, I have to disconnect it, take it in the office, sit there and wait for it to update, then reconnect it.  With wi-fi, it would just update anytime it needed to and I could simply leave it connected in my bedroom.

    That would be spectacularly awesome.  And I hadn’t even thought about the music sharing before, which would also be a great use of wi-fi.

    I can’t see how we’d legally be able to share music between more than one player.

    You can now share your iTunes music across a network with other users on the same network (an awesome feature).  As long as no songs are copied to the other Zune, what’s the difference between sharing iTunes music or sharing the same music on your iPod?  It’s like sharing headphones, only much cooler and more convenient.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 30, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Wi-Fi on portable DAP players will be an evolutionary addition and it will entirely depend upon the vendor’s implementations in the UI.

    The very issue with Wi-Fi will be the battery consumption. This is perhaps the reason Apple has postponed the intros of the new ‘Pods to give more time for the battery/power management features to bake in the labs.

    As a result, the iPod will be the wireless winner against the Zune. The Zune’s engineering efforts are too rushed in hopes of catching up to the iPod. If the Zune comes out as promised with comparable battery consumption, then great. The more competition will keep Apple from sitting on its laurels counting profit margins. This in turn will be best for music lovers everywhere.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 30, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >
You need log in, or register, in order to comment