Microsoft Zune intensifies chaos in Apple iPod+iTunes also-ran market

“The top consumer complaint at online music service Napster: Songs purchased at Napster won’t play on Apple’s iPod,” Jefferson Graham reports for USA Today. “It’s not Napster’s fault. Apple’s hugely successful iPod business is built on a closed system. You shop at iTunes Music Store for digital songs and use iTunes software to transfer them effortlessly to the iPod.”

“The system works great for iPod owners. For others, there’s a chaos of competing formats,” Graham reports. “Songs sold at Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music and other online stores are geared to Microsoft-endorsed digital devices, not the iPod. These digital music players from SanDisk, Creative Labs and others can’t easily play songs from iTunes.”

“The chaos promises to intensify next month when Microsoft begins selling the $249 Zune, its attempt to finally dent Apple’s dominance in digital music. Like Apple, Microsoft is introducing a closed system. Songs sold at Microsoft’s new Zune Marketplace store will only play easily on the Zune — not the iPod, not even Microsoft-endorsed devices sold by Creative, SanDisk, iRiver and others,” Graham reports.

“Apple represents 88% of all online music sales — market share that’s virtually unprecedented in any other business — and 70% of the digital music device market,” Graham reports.

Graham reports, “‘This goes against the grain of everything Microsoft has been telling consumers for two years,’ says Ted Cohen, the managing partner of consultant TAG Strategic. ‘I’m stunned.’

Graham reports, “‘Microsoft is thumbing its nose to its partners and millions of consumers,’ says Richard Doherty, an independent analyst with the Envisioneering Group. ‘I can’t think of anybody doing anything like this in all the years I’ve covered consumer electronics.’ Scott Erickson, a Microsoft Zune product manager, says PlaysForSure is for people who want to use other devices. The Zune system is meant to be a closed-end system, as is the iPod. Microsoft is happy offering both, he says. He says Apple has shown that being a one-stop shop for hardware and software is a successful formula.”

Full article here.
Yet another reason to get an iPod of your choice and use iTunes: it just works – and incudes both Mac and Windows users, too.

Related articles:
Newsweek Q&A: Apple CEO Steve Jobs discusses iPod’s impact, Microsoft’s Zune, and more – October 15, 2006
Apple announces iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, iTunes (PRODUCT) RED gift card – October 13, 2006
RUMOR: Apple to announce wireless video iPod in ‘very near future’ – October 10, 2006
The Channel Checkers: Apple iPod recommended by over 73% vs. other MP3 players – October 05, 2006
Study reveals Apple continues to gain share in music markets – October 04, 2006
Mossberg: Apple’s new iPod+iTunes are ‘better products at better prices’ – October 04, 2006
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

Microsoft’s Ballmer: Zune device not money loser, wishes Apple’s 30GB iPod was $299 instead of $249 – October 11, 2006
Microsoft’s consumer electronics track record: long string of failures – October 11, 2006 founder: ‘Zune will be an expensive failure for Microsoft because consumers aren’t stupid’ – October 06, 2006
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
SanDisk teams with RealNetworks against new common foe: Microsoft Zune – September 18, 2006
Creative does Apple’s dirty work by immediately attacking Microsoft’s Zune – September 17, 2006
Motley Fool’s Jayson: Microsoft’s ‘just plain ugly’ Zune a meager offering, not an iPod killer – September 15, 2006
What’s in a name? ‘Zune’ a French-Canadian euphemism for penis or vagina – September 15, 2006
Crave at CNET: ‘Microsoft Zune, all the excitement that brown can bring’ – September 15, 2006
Microsoft’s Zune underwhelms – September 15, 2006
Enderle: Microsoft Zune ‘a design mistake’ – September 15, 2006
Microsoft hypocrisy exposed with Zune: What ever happened to ‘choice?’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune with fake scroll wheel ‘hardly an Apple iPod killer’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune won’t spoil Apple’s biggest iPod Christmas ever – September 14, 2006
Microsoft unveils Zune 30GB player, Zune Marketplace; declines to disclose prices – September 14, 2006
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
Microsoft Zune is chunky brick made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
Microsoft to spend hundreds of millions, several years on Zune trying to catch Apple iPod+iTunes – July 27, 2006
Zune: Apple cannot lose. Microsoft cannot win. – July 26, 2006


  1. “He says Apple has shown that being a one-stop shop for hardware and software is a successful formula.”

    This applies for computers too.
    So why buy hardware (PCs) and software (Windows) from different companies. Just buy it all from one (Apple). Get a Mac.

  2. There is no reason that Microsoft couldn’t run their one-stop shop AND include the ability for users to grandfather in their PlaysForSure music so they can play it on the Zune. Of course, there’s no reason Apple couldn’t add PlaysForSure to the iPod, either, without sacrificing the controlled iTunes -> iPod one-way exit, but at least Apple never made the promise, “PlaysForSure” and then turn around and say, essentially, “So sorry — we changed our minds.”

    The phrase “PlaysForSure” is SURE to live in infamy, to Microsoft’s eternal shame.

  3. “Songs sold at Microsoft’s new Zune Marketplace store will only play easily on the Zune — not the iPod”

    That’s assuming a lot, don’t ya think?? Microsoft doing something that plays “easily”????

  4. All of these systems, even “PlaysForSure,” are closed.

    I’m sick of of “tech” articles saying that the iPod is closed and that Creative, SanDisk, et al are “open.” That’s absurd. The fact is, it’s one DRM or another. And Apple’s DRM plays on more computers than any other. Period.

  5. Hmmmm. If I understand it right —

    YOU can play iTunes music on a third party mp3 player (except Zune??) cause you download the song as an mp3 file and play it. RIGHT??

    You cannont play Napster music on an iPod cause you don’t run WMA software on an iPod. If you could get your Napster music to an mp3 format — then you could play it on an iPod.

    Does this sound right? (PS I thought Zume would play mp3 formats — per their web site notes. )

    Just trying to make sense of this.


  6. “Norm e.”, iTunes does not support any other MP3 player.

    “Songs purchased from the iTunes Store are in AAC Protected format. You cannot convert them to other formats, including MP3. You can, however, back them up to a data CD or DVD, or you can burn them to an audio CD.”

    Once on a CD, you can re-import them back into your Mac as an unprotected MP3 file (see iTunes’ Preferences > Importing), but you will need 3rd party software to drive your MP3 player and extract the MP3 files from your hard drive.

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