Despite Microsoft's statement that it will take five years before the Zune platform is successful, we think it has a shot of getting there in less. Why? Here are five reasons.
•The Zune has a large screen. The 3-inch screen is 50% larger than the 5G iPod's. One of the main complaints iPod users have is that the screen is just too small to watch video on. Even though iTunes now has movies as well as TV shows and music videos, the the reason people are dying for the widescreen iPod is because they don't like watching it on the current one. Although Microsoft won't have a video store at launch, the fact that you can most likely load up Media Center recordings and other videos onto the player will make it a winner for video. And when the video store comes, it'll be a double winner.
•The Zune has community. The WiFi and DJ features will let you share music with other Zune users, meaning there's more reason for you to use the Zune if your friend Steve has one as well. MySpace, Xbox Live, and Digg are three examples of how well community works to make good technology great.
•The Zune has Microsoft. Don't doubt the financial backing of the largest software maker. They brought the Xbox up from nothing to eat a big chunk of what was previously Sony and Nintendo's territory. The Xbox 360 is just about the only "cool" product associated with Microsoft right now, thanks to James Allard and his hip-squad. Can they do the same for the Zune? Definitely.
•The Zune has the anti-iPod crowd. If you saw through the excitement of the Apple Showtime event yesterday, you'll notice that the iPod didn't really get any significant updates. Brighter screen and longer battery life? New body for the iPod Nano and memory bump? Not much in the way of features there—if you're not counting the games. Not to mention that since everyone and their second cousin has an iPod, which makes it no longer unique. The Zune could be the new iPod, if marketed correctly—which it will be (see #3).
•The Zune has a future. To get the Zune out in time for Christmas '06, Microsoft had to partner with Toshiba and use their Gigabeat design as a bootstrap. The Gigabeat is a pretty well received player, but the next generation Zune will be even better. Why? Because Microsoft is developing that one entirely in-house. As we saw from just about every product they've put out, the second or third iteration is when they get things right. By half-skipping over the painful first-gen by using Toshiba, Microsoft may just shortcut their way into a great player.
Finally, it all relies on how Microsoft is going to measure success. Is the Zune going to be successful if it replaces the iPod as the most sold music player? Or just if it turns a tidy profit for Microsoft, despite only being second or third place?
Oh, and there's an official Microsoft Zune announcement coming tomorrow. We'll let you know if they get things off to a great start, or shoot themselves in the foot right out of the gate.
Coming Zune [Seattle Weekly]