MP3.com founder: ‘Zune will be an expensive failure for Microsoft because consumers aren’t stupid’

“I’ve been looking for a good verb to describe losing all of your music to DRM because it’s increasingly common and I think I have one: zune,” Michael Robertson (MP3.com founder) blogs for MichaelRobertson.com. “Sample usage: He had an extensive classic rock collection that got zuned.”

Robertson writes, “Now if you’re thinking that zune sounds familiar it’s because the press has been abuzz about an upcoming MP3 player from Microsoft called Zune. At first glance the features seem compelling but my prediction is it will be the biggest flop of 2007 with less than 50,000 units sold worldwide.”

“The wow feature of the [Zune] is [supposed to be] wifi – a wireless way to connect to the Internet. Great – I can get music directly to the device without a PC! Wrong. In a baffling move Microsoft has crippled the wifi so it cannot load music from the Internet. You’ll need to attach it to your PC and run their software just like every other MP3 player. The wireless connection is only used to connect to another Zune device to move songs which will then vaporize after 3 days or 3 plays even if you own the music and both devices. Astonishingly the one feature which could fundamentally improve upon the iPod is worthless,” Robertson writes.

“In spite of the larger display and capacity the Zune is inferior… because it zunes your entire purchased music library. Microsoft made a corporate decision to abandon their previous technology called ‘Plays for Sure’ and turn it into ‘Screwed for Sure.’ Anyone who purchased music from Rhapsody, Napster, Buy.com, Wal-mart, BuyMusic, etc. will discover that music is unplayable,” Robertson writes.

Robertson writes, “The danger with DRM is that it gives corporations the power to change the rules of the game anytime they think it will benefit their bank account, even if that means zuning your music library. There’s no better illustration of this than when the world’s largest technology company curtails support of their OWN technology abandoning their hardware partners, music stores and most importantly customers they convinced to use Plays for Sure. Microsoft will surely claim that they’ll continue to support Plays for Sure, but their actions speak louder than their words – it won’t even play on their own music players! Plays for Sure is dead for sure and it’s going to its grave with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of music fans’ digital music crammed into the coffin.”

Robertson writes, “Microsoft will likely spend nearly $100 million in marketing the Zune. The press will give them tens of millions of dollars in free marketing. In spite of this publicity the Zune will be an expensive failure for Microsoft because consumers aren’t stupid. As the saying goes: Zune me once, shame on you. Zune me twice, shame on me.”

Full article here.

[Michael Roberton’s high-profile startups include MP3.com, where he established the largest collection of digital music in the world, amassing more than 1 million downloadable MP3 files. Robertson also spearheaded change in corporate business music services and put the power of CD creation in artists’ hands by offering a host of support technologies and services. Vivendi Universal purchased the profitable company in 2001 for $372 million in stock and cash.

Michael’s next project was to start Linspire, Inc., a company that produces an affordable, license-free desktop Linux operating system. In 2003, Robertson founded SIPphone.com, a company that harnesses the power of the Internet to allow customers to make free long distance phone calls. In 2005, Michael reentered the MP3 business with his latest venture MP3tunes, an online music store and artist music service that offers digital music without digital rights management.]

Related articles:
Microsoft fails to secure key Zune domains – October 04, 2006
Microsoft rigs Zune with tricky pricing and proprietary money schemes – October 03, 2006
Why Microsoft’s Zune won’t kill Apple’s iPod – October 03, 2006
10 Apple iPod vs. Microsoft Zune myths – October 02, 2006
Analyst: Zune could lead to ‘civil war’ between Microsoft and Windows Media partners – September 29, 2006
Thurrott on Microsoft’s Zune: ‘The makings of a disaster, what the heck are these people thinking?’ – September 29, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune’s as good as dead on arrival – September 28, 2006
Microsoft sets 30GB Zune price at $249.99 – September 28, 2006
How Microsoft’s Zune can kill Apple’s iPod – September 21, 2006
Microsoft’s Zune insanity – September 21, 2006
The Microsoft Zune 1.0 dud – September 20, 2006
Microsoft’s underwhelming Zune a ‘viral DRM’ device – September 18, 2006
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Analyst: Microsoft’s Zune an ‘underwhelming’ repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat; no threat to Apple iPod – August 30, 2006
Microsoft confirms brick-like Zune to be made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
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Computerworld review: ‘Apple’s new iPods are better than ever’ – September 27, 2006
PC Magazine’s 19th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards for MP3 players: Apple iPod line – September 25, 2006
USA Today reviews new Apple iPod nanos, updated iPods, iTunes 7 (each earns 4 stars out of 4) – September 21, 2006
Time Magazine’s Gadget of the Week: Apple iPod 80GB – September 21, 2006
CNET Editor’s Choice: Apple fifth-gen updated iPod – ‘best, most attractive iPod to date’ – September 20, 2006
Disney’s remarkable 1st week iTunes movies sales should have studios clambering aboard Apple train – September 20, 2006
Disney sells 125,000 movie downloads via Apple’s iTunes Store in first week – September 19, 2006
PC Magazine review: iTunes 7 ‘Apple’s best effort yet’ (4 stars out of 5) – September 15, 2006
CNET Editor’s Pick: Apple’s new 2G iPod nano – ‘sure to be top choice among wide range of users’ – September 14, 2006
Apple debuts new iPod in 30GB and 80GB with Hollywood movies, games and new lower price – September 12, 2006
Apple intros new iPod nano with new aluminum design in five colors and 24-hour battery life – September 12, 2006
Apple unveils new iPod shuffle: world’s smallest digital music player – September 12, 2006
Apple debuts iTunes 7 – September 12, 2006

49 Comments

  1. In general, I agree with Roberson, despite his dig at Apple in the first paragraph of his article. Adding DRM (which I despise, BTW) to iTunes purchases is not the equivalent of making them a rental.

    However, IMHO, he’s pretty much spot on with his analysis of the Zune, except I think MS will probably sell several hundred thousand if not millions, although not right away.

    A funny thing is, after reading his article, a car analogy occured to me.

    Will the Zune be the Edsel of the mp3 player market?

  2. You only have to look at comments on vaious forums to see there are some really really stupd people out there trying to make a case for the crappo Zune…

    And oh, what stupid comments they are. Usually along the lines of “Yay! Wi-Fi!” (ignoring/unaware of how useless the Wi-Fi actually is), or “The bigger screen kicks iPod’s ass!” (the bigger screen has the same resolution as the iPod, which means the picture will look less sharp).

  3. I think the answer to my question is, “because it’s M$ and it’s typical for them”. I can easily understand why M$ or any other company would like to have a iPod competitor, but why would any company go to market with one so totally lame compared to the market leader?

    I simply can’t believe the WIFi crapola. And the part about losing all your purchased music from everybody else? The name of the game should be to welcome all formats and promote the idea that unlike that “other” company, you aren’t closed. This was a perfect opportunity, and M$ blew it. I wouldn’t have bought one; i’ll stick with the best, but I can’t help saying, what were they thinking?

  4. Interesting how MDN left out the part about people losing their iTunes collection as well.

    Who the hell has ever lost their iTunes collection? There’s no excuse.

    1) You should back up your collection.
    2) Even if you don’t backup your collection, Apple can be talked into allowing you to redownload it once.
    3) If you burn standard CDs of all music you buy, you can never lose anything, because that CD can be re-ripped to any format.

  5. I’m not worried about MS giving these away with computer purchases- people will be that much more willing to stick it in a drawer or eBay it once they try it out and learn for themselves that it’s crap and has far more limitations than iPod.

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