Microsoft's Answer To Sluggish Zune Sales: Advertise The Crippled WiFi Functionality

from the advertising-as-a-product-band-aid dept

Microsoft’s entry into the portable music space has been more whimper than bang, with the unit seeing fairly brisk sales early on, only to have consumer interest quickly wane. The Zune was designed to be direct competition for the iPod, but actually fell to fifth place after black Friday behind products from SanDisk, Disney, Creative and Memorex. Zune reviews have been mixed, with one of the more annoying shortcomings being that the much ballyhooed WiFi functionality falls short — prohibiting you from doing any of the cool things you’d expect to be able to do with a wireless music player. Last week Microsoft worked hard to defend Zune sales by saying their internal expectations (1 million by June) were on target. This week they’ve announced their miracle solution to the lack of consumer interest: pour more money into an already bloated advertising budget to highlight the device’s largely unused music sharing capabilities. Drawing even more attention to the crippled WiFi functionality of the Zune probably isn’t the answer; instead why not un-cripple the WiFi, embrace the hacker and hobbyist community, and truly let it differentiate itself in the marketplace as an open and user-friendly device? Fattening up the Zune advertising budget does nothing to improve on the device’s shortcomings.

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Comments on “Microsoft's Answer To Sluggish Zune Sales: Advertise The Crippled WiFi Functionality”

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FumDuck says:

Re: I don't get it

The reason they didn’t pull it is simple: to pull it would have meant someone in Microsoft would have had to admit to being wrong. Who would it be? Design? Engineering? Production? Marketing? Nobody wants to limit their career by admitting they doofed it.

No, in the corporate world it’s easier to launch a turkey than slaughter it. You’ve got more time to move on to your next job, and even if you don’t move, you can use the time before failure is obvious to work your butt off to make it look like someone else’s fault.

Michael (user link) says:

Product Placement

I’ve been fairly surprised by the in store marketing, a unattractive, all black (apposed to the White Apple Display) end-cap, not well positioned in store, with two pieces of plastic, the Zune’s, strapped down with a picture pasted over the screen.

Why not a functional demo of the hardware? Why not some sound to the display? Most of all, when in Target, why is it in the grocery section?

W.B. McNamara (profile) says:

Yeah, I’m still scratching my head about this one. I’ve already written about the gamble that Microsoft took in launching with the “welcome to the social” campaign, and it doesn’t appear that they’re looking in any better directions right now.

From my post:

I’m really surprised that Microsoft didn’t do more to prime the pump on this. Give Zunes away to every street-level music fiend they could find. Pay people to take Zunes to public places and share their little hearts out. Build a “Zunebox” (think jukebox) that allows Zune users to pull down songs and then install one in every Starbucks, Borders Music, and Best Buy in key markets.

Anything at all, really, to give Zunesters as many opportunities as possible to think “damn this is cool” while they grab a new track out of the ether…anything to minimize the number of times that people look for the social only to get: No nearby Zune devices found, or nearby devices have wireless turned off.

And I’m not even going to touch MS marketer Kingsley’s “the Zune is about keepin’ it real, man” quote. Too easy.

iWindoze says:

Miscrosoft has only themselves to blame.

The zune’s biggest flaw is the fact it DOESN’T ‘Play for Sure’™.

Thanks to Microsoft screwing over all their business partners on the RIAA’s say so when the DRM was cracked on *.wma the zune is unable to play all the audio files people have been buying at the Microsoft stores. This is the reason why ultimately the zune WILL become Microsoft’s biggest flop since ‘MS Bob’.

Maybe when these corporations finally understand people will not pay them MORE money for LESS functionality, **then** they might be able to come out with a successful product.

Sanguine Dream says:

Very true.

Let me quote what iWindoze just said

Maybe when these corporations finally understand people will not pay them MORE money for LESS functionality, **then** they might be able to come out with a successful product.

Corporations have put themselves on some pedastal by thinking they can get away with screwing over customers. Which would explain why big business is always pushing for some legislation that will preserve their failing busniess models. Perhaps these Zune sales numbers will open some eyes.

SickPuP says:

Don’t follow that link….it is the most retarded way around the DRM. You are better off just downloading the music or ripping it off your own cd than attempting that. I havea zune myself and there are very few issues with the player but mostly the software is a POS. I am sure there would be more player issues found if I could use all the wi-fi features. I agree….forget the advertising and start fixing the software and device. Once the device is like the word will spread on its own. I think in about 1 year and 2-4 gens later this will be a good device. Perhaps things like internet radio, or the ability to setup connections to wireless networks and use it as a media device on things like the xbox 360 or any pc. Lots of uses for the wi-fi are capped by the local file sharing only.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t wait for these guys to realize that something like Zune (or a wifi enabled iPod for that matter) could be the answer to the prayers of many digital photographers. Imagine connecting your camera directly to your portable music device via USB, and capturing them on the device as they are taken. If all looks good, you could then wirelessly send them to a nearby laptop for immediate post-production work and further distribution. C’mon, how much of a stretch is this really?

foofdawg says:

Not a mac/apple fan

But I have to say, what did you really expect? The I-pod already corners the market, and although I only bought a mp3 player for my wife (I dont listen to a lot of music), I didnt even consider the Zune because its brand new, but not flashy or cool, and definitely nothing new except it’s MS attempt at being the walmart of the computer world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: re: Anonymous Coward (photographer)

if you have to USB it to the music device, why not USB it to the laptop? not sure how wireless is a big a deal there.

The idea is portability. If you could connect the camera to an iPod-like device, then you could do walk-around events far easier than having to lug a laptop around with you. Laptops are great, I use one for studio-based shooting where I am in one place. The 10ft USB cable gives me a little wandering room. But imagine, if you will, trying to take shots at a company holiday party. Camera > USB to iPod > wifi to laptop > 2nd person prints images immediately > people leave party happy with photos in hand. Either that or buy a wifi adapter for the camera that costs about $1000. It might be too much a niche market for Apple though…

otto says:

it's not easy being simple?

maybe this is an example of how much effort Apple put into making the iPod simple and basic and easy to use. they didn’t just make a music player with the least effort possible, they obviously spent a lot of time making it simple. easy enough that almost anyone can walk into a store, pick up an iPod and just looking at it they can figure out how to make it go. the same way the iMac and even the original Mac just looked friendly and straightforward.

as for the DRM…. we know that Apple and MS were forced to add DRM because they are also involved in the music stores. they had to make compromises. it’s unfortunate the Zune has to wrap every track in DRM if you wifi it to people around you, but i guess there is no easy way for the Zune to know if the song is your own creation, or a CD you ripped? i’m as pro iPod as anyone, but i feel like the DRM is the fault of the labels. the amount of freedom that iTMS has is only due to tons of legal wrangling. iPods did not have any kind of DRM scheme till Apple negotiated with labels to open the music store. remember the “Rip Mix Burn” iTunes/iPod advertising campaign?

i agree with the above post about Zune stations. i am also surprised they have not set up kiosks to share songs, and just to have people find another zune to talk to…. even if it is just a big box. maybe they will read these posts and rush to make that happen. not that me and my iPod care…..

james-42 (user link) says:

good ideas

Seems like there are more good ideas in these comments then at MS, SickPuP’s suggestion of an internet radio enabled Zune is brilliant, and something I would actually want. Even if only over my home WiFi network, that feature would make my iPod look pretty weak.

Also liked W.B. McNamara’s ideas on a “Zunebox”.

I assume someone at MS is reading this.

Anonymous Coward says:

as otto pointed out, apple created the ipod with basic features, but the features worked well. nothing fancy (except maybe the OTG playlist or the extra notebook/calender thing) that will hinder the operation of an mp3 player. that’s what you got.

with zune, it seems like they wanted to make an mp3 player+. i wonder how much of the wifi is due to the riaa? i wonder if having wifi enabled transfers from a comp would have been a bit more programming/hardware? probably not. as an EE i know of this stuff, but didn’t study it. so i’m not down with the wifi tranfser protocols and programming.

eh..but who knows? maybe MS didn’t want to led down their reputation of producing second rate stuff and then attempting to improve it by reinventing it/

Woadan says:

Sluggish Zune Sales

Though I have only owned a Zune for a few days, I can’t say that I am disappointed at all. Using the included software, I have ripped 5 CDs and synched the files up. The process took about as much time as it took to open the case and take out the CD and put it in the drive on the PC. Playing music or videos is easy.

I suspect the decision not to get the Zune to work on Macs was twofold: First, if you own a Mac, you’re likely to be a devoted Apple consumer, which means you probably already have an iPOD; and second, it’s very expensive to create software for the Mac, and isn’t always cost-effective. (Think about it: If less than 5% of all computers out in the wild are Macs, the cost for producing the software, per Zune, is prohibitively high. And given a Mac computer owner is probably very Apple-pro and/or anti-MS, you don’t have much of a market.)

In other words, it was simple economics driving MS to NOT make Zune software for the Mac. The same economic forces that drove Apple to make iTunes for the PC.

Will the Zune kill the iPOD. Probably not, at least not this generation. But I didn’t buy the Zune, it was a gift. I am not a fan of MP3 players because they do only one thing, and I want devices that do multiples so I don’t have a belt fully hung with gadgets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Geesh, people. So much rage. Hmm, well, I’m a nerdy ( OBVIOUSLY not as much as you guys ) poverty stricken high schooler, so I got my first mp3 player this year – viola, zune. So far, I’ve had no problems. YES, I knew there were probably going to be problems (people who say iPod ‘did it right the first time, screw you, you did NOT have friends/have a first gen iPod.) but somehow the scathing online reviews wormed their way into my heart – I had to have one.

So I got one, and DAMNIT, there actually wasn’t anything wrong with it. HUH. What a dissapointment. Similarly, my iPodded rich buddies (guess they didn’t read the said ‘scathing online reviews’) were actually JEALOUS of me. They liked the large color screen, the poopy-brown hue, and most of all, the fact that I dropped + stepped on it with NO APPARENT DAMAGE.

Best of all, my other poverty stricken friends got them. So, now we sit in class with our HORRIBLE, terrible players and send stupid music and photos back and forth through this USELESS wifi deal, and mr. Ipod sits alone in the corner with his top-selling player that everyone in the universe has. Lucky him.

Go with the Ipod, guys.

Rick Manning says:

I hate MS, but let’s face the facts, MS eventually gets what it wants. Remember when the xbox was about to be launched and all those nay-sayers and skeptics (I was one of them) were saying that the MS was in over their heads and that there was no way they could compete with Sony. It took 5 years, but the X-Box 360 finally beat the PlayStation 3 in sales over the holiday season and it looks like its going to stay that way. The same thing will happen with the Zune. It will take time and MS will lose a lot of money, but eventually the Zune will be able to go toe to toe with the iPod.

Justin says:

Zune fails? Maybe you should buy one.

If this player was by anyone but microsoft, you would be singing it’s praises, that is if you actually owned one. The Wi-Fi feature is great. It’s easy to use, and the only reason it is limited is to keep costs down for the consumer in terms of the unavoidable lawsuits MS would face from the record companies. It’s easy to use, sound quality is excellent, the screen is a very good improvement over the Ipod, and it comes with an FM raido for $250. The firmware will eventually be hacked, the parts are easy to upgrade, and music requires no conversion unlike Itunes. Users complain about battery life, well any LI battery needs to be cycled about 10 times to reach full potential, and I usually get about 4 hours of video and 14 hours of music with the screen on 5 seconds and the wifi off.The only real complaint I have after owning one for 3 months is the weak native video support. Man, how is this thing supposed to sell when everyone complains about it?

Ken says:

Can't believe so much crap goes around

The haze is blinding. I flew through Amazon’s thousands of Zune reviews exclaiming and comparing features. I couldn’t trust any of them. I don’t hate Microsoft as a brand, I hate it as a corporation with unhealthy monopolistic tactics. Their astroturf scheme was the lowest kind of deceit, and they have completely lost my trust as a consumer. It is their fault that I am prejudiced against their products; and everyone with a brain should! It is the reason I can’t trust any of those reviews.

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