Microsoft attempts to move the goalposts, redefine Zune failure

“Hindered by a failure to sell large numbers of digital music players, Microsoft is singing a new Zune,” Olga Kharif reports for BusinessWeek.

“A few weeks before releasing a new version of its MP3 player called Zune HD, Microsoft is taking extraordinary steps to court software developers to create applications for the device, which competes with Apple’s hugely successful iPod and iPhone,” Kharif reports. “One developer of a popular iPhone application for reading Twitter messages says Microsoft recently approached him about re-creating the software to run on Zune, with Microsoft footing the bill for development costs.”

“The programmer declined, but Microsoft’s offer speaks to the company’s legendary persistence at trying to make successes out of products that fail to excite customers the first or second time around. Along with Zune HD, Microsoft is making a Zune service available for delivering movies to Microsoft’s Xbox video game console,” Kharif reports. “A Zune-branded music service for the Xbox, cell phones, and PCs is in the works as well. ‘The business is entertainment,’ says Brian Seitz, group marketing manager with Microsoft Zune. ‘The mobile device or the MP3 player is just one screen that can use the service. To erase the iPod is not what the vision was. The business is the service.'”

Kharif reports, “Sales of Zunes have been meager. Microsoft has sold about 3 million Zunes in the player’s three years of availability. By comparison, Apple sold 10.2 million iPods between March and June of this year.”

MacDailyNews Note: Here’s a better comparison, Olga. It’s called a direct comparison. It tends to give the clearest perspective: In the last three years, Apple sold 159.124 million iPods plus 21.17 million iPhones (which, of course, also contain iPods) for a grand total of 180.294 million units.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Blatantly attempting to rewrite history will not make a success of the abject failure known as “Zune.” Apple kicked Microsoft’s ass without even trying.

If Microsoft had a real leader in charge, the brand name “Zune” would have been dropped long ago as all it does it hurt Microsoft by constantly highlighting the company’s penchant for poorly following Apple’s every move. That Microsoft seems happy to continue trumpeting “Zune” to its detriment is a testament to what happens when you let the sales guy try to run the company. Zune is a laughingstock failure that was extremely late to market, lacked compelling features and, in the hands of someone with even a modicum of competency, never would have been released, much less allowed to continue being fired off daily into Microsoft’s collective foot.

As always, Microsoft has foolishly showed its weak hand early while Apple stands ready to unveil this year’s new iPods and pricing very soon.

All that said, raise a glass: “May Steve Ballmer remain Microsoft’s CEO for as long as it takes!”

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “James W.” for the heads up.]


  1. There have been notable marketing failures in the past. Disney licensed Mickey Mouse products with no regard to ensuring the products had any quality. So the term “Mickey Mouse” became synonymous with “cheap and poorly built.”

    McDonalds has had the misfortune (which they are desperately trying to change) of having its prefix “Mc” being attached to “jobs” (“McJob” and “McFood”) to low quality (at worst) or pedestrian quality (at best).

    And now… Zune. In my mind it means “undesirable consumer product that utterly fails to gain traction in the marketplace against a juggernaut.” It also means “undesirable consumer product that a stubborn, intransigent, incredibly arrogant company keeps foisting upon the world in a vain attempt to save face.”

  2. HD radio!
    I literally cannot count the number of people who’ve said to me,
    “If only my iPod had HD radio.”
    “Geez, I love my iPod, but if Microsoft came out with a player that also had HD radio capability, I’d throw my iPod into the river and replace it with the Microsoft device!”

    Seriously, I can’t count that number of people.
    Well, unless I start at “zero”. …

  3. “To erase the iPod is not what the vision was.”

    He’s full of it. Thats just about every vision Microsoft has whenever they want to compete in another category that they clearly have now clue or should belong in. They blatantly muscle their way in using their cash cows to fund the POS till they wear out the competition.

    The competition that legitimately exist because their product sells and funds development and its future. Isn’t that how a product succeeds? It wins because people want it.

  4. @ Rob –

    When you are #1, you don’t mention #2 in your ads. No reason to compare the iPod to the Zune.

    Just feel sorry for those dumb enough to buy one, or worse, the poor kids who got one as a gift and can’t turn it in for an iPod ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  5. @adam
    “Actually, wouldn’t an even more direct comparison be how many iPods were sold in the first three years or production?”

    only if apple were to tear down the app store and itunes to level the playing field to give zune a fighting chance. being market market leader has its costs and benefits and copying has the same but in opposed positions. kind of like saying that the lexus 350F Sport should be made with wagon wheels so their performance can be compared to a buggy.

    have not seen a zune in the wild yet, but i have seen accessory cases w/MSRP $19.99 on clearance for $0.25.

  6. to Adam:

    Not a legitimate comparison. In 2001, nobody knew what an Mp3 player was. When launched, iPod was $400 (5GB), worked only with Macs, Windows version came only 9 months later, and was FireWire-only for the first (almost) two years (and very few PCs had a FireWire card back then). Other than some crappy, flash-based Samsungs, Creatives and similar (with 128MB, which could take 30 songs at most), Apple was the only offering out there. They were basically building a market for MP3 players by themselves. In the beginning, Apple may have likely had close to 100% of the MP3 player market; in its first three years, Zune had less than 2% at any given time.

    So, no, really, it does NOT compare.

    (this is a second version of a comment that somehow miraculously disappeared form this thread; it is not as articulate as it was the first time, but should do to make the point).

  7. Both Adam and Olga offered better “comparisons” than MDN. Predrag‘s comments aside, it would be the FIRST three years that are most comparable. Also, Olga was not trying to make THAT sort of “comparison”, but pointing out that Apple sold more each recent MONTH than MS did in all three YEARS!
    mackle‘s comment does not merit a response.
    MS has screwed up every time it tried to enter the hardware market. Olga was not arguing in their favor, but against them. Apple, a hardware maker, has NOT screwed up in the software market. EOS

  8. Has anyone ever wondered why MS wants to have it’s fingers in every pie outside of the software business?

    Game consoles? MP3 players?

    I mean really… how long before we see a Microsoft branded car?

    Or toilet paper?


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