(Cue organ music and evil laughter). The first Zune players have now been released in the United States. Microsoft’s answer to the iPod has been controversial from the start, not only because it follows on Microsoft’s well and tested method of coming late into a market and using its comprehensive weight to grind its competitors into submission. However, they may be taking on more than they can chew with iPod, which seems to have considerable brand recognition and general zeitgeist. The Zune is offered in three colours (including the ugliest brown in the world, I mean, what where they thinking?).
Most interesting has been Zune’s DRM strategy, which is incompatible with Microsoft’s own PlaysforSure TPM format. It seems like Microsoft wants to create two separate markets, one for third party stores and devices, such as Yahoo! Music, Napster, Creative and Philips; and the other market for its own players, software, store and devices. This includes a strategy to bring together Zune, Windows Vista and XBox as the next generation of entertainment environment for the digital consumer, all locked in a nice and tidy technically protected zone handled and controlled by Microsoft.
Where is the store? Zune has its own Zune Marketplace (read iTunes rip-off), but it seems to me that the overall strategy will be to bring all marketplaces together, such as Xbox Live’s Marketplace, as it already allows people to download games, upgrades, and will soon offer movies and video shows. Add to this equation Windows Vista, and you start seeing how Microsoft expects to lock its customers into Xbox-playing, Zune-listening, Vista-using robots. And I don’t even want to mention the wireless sharing feature, which will expire after three plays or three days.
I’ll keep my iPod, thank you very much.