Print 27 comment(s) - last by msp35.. on Sep 16 at 12:25 PM

J. Allard gives us some insight on the concept behind Zune

With all the news swirling around the official announcement of Microsoft's answer to Apple's iPod, it's good to get some commentary straight from the source. The fellas over at Engadget had 20 minutes to sit down and chat with Microsoft Corporate VP J. Allard to discuss all things Zune.

Some of the matters discussed include what Microsoft envisions for the Zune platform and its place in Microsoft's digital media product strategy. They also discuss PlaysForSure and Zune compatibility with existing music services. Here's J. Allard on the Zune's wireless functionality:

That's the beauty of having 802.11 in every device: we can do that. We can do more device-to-device, or we can do more PC-to-PC, so the combination of the device, the PC software that we're doing, and the online service is going to allow us to really shape how the community and the social aspect of Zune marries with the music experience. It also helps in terms of moving the music industry's way of thinking about integrating social networking and peer to peer in a really healthy way that works for them.

It should be interesting to see how the Zune user experience grows over the life cycle of the product. The large, widescreen display, wireless connectivity and social networking aspects of the device are promising and should be enough to give Apple something to think about when it fully redesigns its flagship iPod models.

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Arrrrgh matey!
By slashbinslashbash on 9/14/2006 5:27:40 PM , Rating: 3
J Allard cracks me up.

On a more serious note, this Zune sounds like it might be cool and all, but a big part of the problem is that it depends on a network effect in order for its cool stuff to happen. Now, it's been a while since I've hung out in high school or college campuses, but it seems to me that even iPods don't yet have the market penetration to make these efforts worthwhile. J says stuff like "so if you're in the same room with a friend who has a Zune..." and I actually don't think I've ever been in the same room with a friend who has an iPod, while I've been carrying my iPod. I usually leave mine in my car.

More importantly, I think the whole idea of a "personal music player" is that the music is personal. If I've got a friend over and we're listening to music through my stereo system and he wants a copy, it's simple to burn a CD so he can take it and copy it to his computer (where he can then put it on an iPod or whatever). On the other hand, you usually don't listen to PMP's in a social context. The whole idea of them is kind of anti-social, actually -- you put on the headphones in order to tune others out.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Korvon on 9/14/2006 5:33:28 PM , Rating: 2
I think they are trying to change that with Zune. It is going to be interesting to see if it will happen or not.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By mpc7488 on 9/14/2006 5:42:31 PM , Rating: 2
I see what you're saying, but I see some pretty cool potential too. (And it *has* been a while since you've been on a college campus, the damn things are everywhere!) Commuter trains, planes, etc. are all areas where people are tightly packed and might want to "subscribe" to any locally broadcast playlists to pass the time. Also, if the range is decent, you could even have friends driving a few car lengths behind you on cruise control and listen to the same songs on road trips. Having the ability to re-play songs you like is a pretty neat feature too. And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before someone figures out how you can transmit unprotected mp3s (your own personal works only, of course) to friends, and that might prove slightly popular.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By slashbinslashbash on 9/14/2006 6:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
No doubt there's some cool potential, but my point was more that for any of this cool stuff to happen, a whole bunch of people are going to have to ditch their iPods or whatever else they use and switch to Zune. It's got to have pretty huge market penetration before it gets to the point where people can even have the chance to use this cool stuff.

I think this might be possible if 1) MS severely undercuts the iPod on pricing (like $150 for a 30GB Zune) or 2) the Zune had some above-and-beyond capability like gaming or something. But as it is, it pretty much plays movies and music, with the capability to download this stuff over WiFi from other people's Zunes being the only real upgrade over an iPod.

I know that this increasingly networked path is the way the market will trend, but right now I don't think it's enough of a benefit to get people to switch, particularly when creating a product from scratch like this. The network effect is a double-edged sword. Once you get big enough, more people will use the product just because other people are using the product, and all users benefit from more people using the product. However, in the initial phases, any network-related benefits to the product are negated because there isn't that critical mass of users.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Ralph The Magician on 9/14/2006 6:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
$150 for a 30GB player? What would the point be in that? If Microsoft takes a loss on every player, what's the point of even making it? Just to stick it to Apple?

Remember, Apple and Microsoft make virtually nothing on media. In fact, they probably generate losses from time to time for that sector specifically, because they have to pay infastructure costs for their music services.

The new iPod is already $249. Apple can cut the prices down like that because they KNOW they'll sell volume. I wouldn't be surprised if the Zune costs the same. I suppose they could cut it down to $199...maybe.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By slashbinslashbash on 9/15/2006 6:46:54 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, yes. Think about Xbox vs PS2 and GameCube. It's well known that the Xbox lost money for several years (not just on hardware) in order to break into the videogame market versus these established players. MS recognized that they had to lose major bucks in order to establish Xbox as a viable competitor. MS was actually one of the few companies that could afford to do so, and it was their stated strategy at the outset ("We're going to lose money on Xbox, but it's crucial for long-term positioning"). I can easily see MS doing the same thing with Zune, if they've truly decided to dedicate the company to it. And I'm actually kind of getting that vibe from the rhetoric in the J Allard interview.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By slashbinslashbash on 9/15/2006 1:21:27 PM , Rating: 2
Just found an article about this....

Summary: MS's gaming division lost $1.26 Billion in fiscal 2006 and has been hemmoraging hundreds of millions every year since the Xbox. It is only predicted to make a profit in 2008. The Zune is expected to be a loss-maker.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Ralph The Magician on 9/14/2006 5:49:36 PM , Rating: 2
Now, it's been a while since I've hung out in high school or college campuses, but it seems to me that even iPods don't yet have the market penetration to make these efforts worthwhile.
In an average college classroom close to 80% of the students in the room have iPods. 95% of the girls in the class have iPods.

The problem with the Zune is two fold:
(1) It doesn't support iTunes
(2) It isn't sexy. At best the Zune will be able to compete in the male market with those who have 30GB/60GB/80GB iPods. It won't have any effect at all on the female market, which is roughly half, and it won't even touch the iPod Nano.

Really, the market share that the Zune can actually capture assuming that everything goes well is relatively small. It's going to be a niche at best. Apple has absolutely NOTHING to worry about. What's going to happen is that Microsoft is probably going to end up stealing half of Creative's market share. If offers all the advantages of something like a Zen Vison player, plus WiFi. Too bad that WiFi is pretty much useless. I don't think I've ever seen two Zen Visions in the same day, let alone in the same room.

If Apple was somehow able to put WiFi capabilites into a Nano, then they would have something. That would be ABSOLUTELY HUGE. I can just imagine the kind of library you'd see in my gen chem lecture. I'd venture a guess that in some of the big lecture halls you'd be able to have 1TB of music.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By icthus13 on 9/14/2006 6:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I'm on a college campus every day as a student, and you see iPods absolutely EVERYWHERE. However, the huge majority of the ones I see are either the old mini's or the newer nano's (this is especially true with girls).

While it's true that guys tend to go for the bigger capacity, they also want something that will look cool, a feature the iPod still has over Zune. It will have to be very cheap to be an "iPod killer."

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By stubeck on 9/14/2006 7:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
Not supporting iTunes is a good thing in my book. Its constantly hanging on me and then it won't recongize my ipod half the time.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By ChugokuOtaku on 9/15/2006 7:48:48 AM , Rating: 2
it has to do with how well they marketted their iPod. Lotta girls on campus have iPods, but when I showed them what my Cowon iAUDIO x5 does, lotta them said they'd ditch Apple for Cowon on their next mp3 player.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Ironmaus on 9/14/2006 6:11:12 PM , Rating: 3
I remember when the Gameboy first came out and you could play with two of them hooked together. My friends and I joked that the Gameboy was for playing games while you were on the bus and, if we were going to play a game together, we'd probably be at someone's house where there would be a NES. Now, I seem to bump into people all over the place who have a DS and want to play a quick round of Tetris. My friend Chris says that he can open up his DS at work during the lunch hour and find at least three open Mario Kart games.

I just don't think we should pretend like we know what people will do once they have a feature they've never had before. I can see the people like you who are totally antisocial about their music players. Also people who, while at home, are willing to get off their ass, walk into the other room, locate a blank CD, make a copy which their friend can take home, put in their computer, rip, and then transfer to their music player. I can also see people who will be completely jazzed by the idea of saying, "You have to listen to this song" and sending it to their friend IMMEDIATELY while they're at the office or in class or at a dinner party.

What about listening to your music player in the car? You give a friend a ride and she says, "That tune is sweet." You could say, "I'll burn you a copy when I get home and then give it to you next time I see you," or you could say, "Let me send it to you right now."

It's a world of possibilities and we're just guessing at what they'll be.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Ralph The Magician on 9/14/2006 6:50:32 PM , Rating: 2
What about listening to your music player in the car? You give a friend a ride and she says, "That tune is sweet." You could say, "I'll burn you a copy when I get home and then give it to you next time I see you," or you could say, "Let me send it to you right now."
Not if your friend is a girl, because she has a new iPod Nano. Instead, she'll remember the name of the song and buy it on iTunes.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By melgross on 9/15/2006 3:24:48 AM , Rating: 2
Also, the song disappears in 3 days.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By PrinceGaz on 9/14/2006 7:39:18 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, but when you start a thread with a title like "Arrrrgh matey!", the forum rules require that you at least include something about condoning piracy of copyrighted content. Mentioning how the wi-fi connection might be hacked through modified firmware to allow free distribution of unprotected files (and unprotected files are everywhere now thanks to WM DRM and FairPlay being broken) would have been ideal.

Okay, no of course the forum rules don't require anything like that. But a portable music player with wi-fi capability? Once the market-penetration recahes the critical-mass, the Zune could really take off.

Personally I don't like either any iPod or the Zune as they are lacking in functionality and over-priced compared to the best offerings from lesser known brands. That's marketing for you (I'm assuming the Zune will be at least quite successful).

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By PrinceGaz on 9/14/2006 7:42:41 PM , Rating: 1
And to the forum administrators, can we please have an edit function so that mis-typing or other inadvertant errors may be corrected. To prevent abuse you could maybe limit the edit time-window to about 10-15 minutes, that way people can correct unintentional mistakes but not change their post after other people have replied so as to totally change its meaning.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By Vertigo101 on 9/14/2006 10:31:43 PM , Rating: 3
This isn't a forum, it's a comments section.

RE: Arrrrgh matey!
By slashbinslashbash on 9/14/2006 11:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the reference of course was to J Allard, who (according to reliable sources) looks exactly like a pirate.

By kkwst2 on 9/14/2006 5:07:21 PM , Rating: 2
I always see people bashing the wireless. However, when I've tell teenagers about the wireless features of the Zune, they seem to really like the idea of listening to the same tune simultaneously, which as I understand is one of the features.

I think it has a chance to be big, possibly even (dare I say) an iPod killer. It just needs to not have a deal-killing flaw and get a critical mass of people using it. Although if it sells, I'm sure we'll see - gasp - Apple copying Microsoft. Although somehow it will still be Stevie boy's idea.

RE: Wireless
By Ironmaus on 9/14/2006 6:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
Man, Steve borrowed the idea of wireless on a personal music player from Xerox like five years ago. Microsoft is just making it happen first.

RE: Wireless
By Ralph The Magician on 9/14/2006 6:54:14 PM , Rating: 2
The thing is, if Apple put WiFi into its music player it would actually work because Apple has that kind of market saturation. You could walk onto any college campus or into any coffee shop and be virtually guaranteed access to some kind of WiFi mesh iPod network within 3 to 6 months of the release of said iPod.

The Zune will only work in the basement computer science classroom in the engineering quad that's sponsored by Microsoft.

RE: Wireless
By Ralph The Magician on 9/14/2006 6:55:59 PM , Rating: 3
Oh, and it will only work between Zunes that are updated to the latest DRM service pack.

RE: Wireless
By msp35 on 9/16/2006 12:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
If Apple integrated wireless into the next generation iPod's, it would only be effective for everyone with the latest generation. I think they'd be facing an uphill battle (albeit, nowhere near what Microsoft is facing). Wireless functionality will be a slowly adopted feature as I dont see current ipod owners going out to buy the latest gen ipod just for the wireless feature. Does anyone have any information about the % of ipod owners that own the latest generation? If Microsoft can make some inroads with the wireless function and the overall performance/price ratio, it can only help the mp3 market by driving competition.

Homemade Recordings?
By Spyvie on 9/14/2006 8:01:00 PM , Rating: 2
It says something in the previous Zune story about sharing “homemade recordings” ...If this means you can transfer music you’ve ripped yourself to other Zunes without DRM this will be huge.

And to the guy who doesn’t see many iPods… on the morning light rail here in Denver about every third or fourth commuter has some sort of DAP, easily 10 or 12 per car.

BTW DailyTech
By slashbinslashbash on 9/15/2006 1:48:26 AM , Rating: 2
J Allard's legal name is just "J", no period required.

By Brandon256 on 9/15/2006 9:42:20 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft's Zune Won't Play Protected Windows Media according to this link. Leave to M$ and things are better already....

invest in m$'es payforscrew
By phatboye on 9/14/06, Rating: 0
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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