iPod Killer

Excuse me while I stifle this yawn…

iPodSo Microsoft is prepping their own iPod killer now, eh? This should be interesting. There’s a good chance that Microsoft’s new device, rumored to be named Zune, will follow in the footsteps of other historical iPod killers.

But then again, this is Microsoft, with nearly limitless resources and an unrelenting desire to own every corner of every technology market. Will they succeed? Time will tell.

What’s certain is that the iPod appears to be a difficult thing to kill. Many have tried; none have succeeded. Even the word itself has become nearly synonymous with “portable electronic music device.” And the device itself has become something of an icon. Reuters: The world’s largest software maker faces an uphill climb in closing the gap on Apple’s iPod media player and iTunes Music Store, the runaway leaders in their respective areas. While Apple shouldn’t take this lead for granted, it does mean that Microsoft has its work cut out for it. Last time I checked, Apple owned something like 70% market share with the iPod/iTunes combination. The closest runner up is a distant second.

Related Slashdot discussion here.

Seems like as good a time as any to mention my favorite viral video, the one where Microsoft redesigns the iPod’s packing. You know, where they take Apple’s wonderfully and elegantly simple package and switch it around to become an absolute monstrosity. Click here to watch it. Rumor has it (althought I’ve never personally confirmed it) that this video was acutally made by someone internal to Microsoft, suggesting that at least someone somewhere within the world’s largest software company knows had badly their packaging stinks.

I suppose, in the end, I simply fail to understand why every portable electronic music device that’s announced is touted as the next possible iPod killer. Maybe, just maybe, the iPod is a great product. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not the list of specs and features that make it great. Maybe it’s the way it rests in your hand, or the way it fits into your pants pocket, or the way the click wheel seems to be an extension of your hand, or the way it works so seamlessly with iTunes. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Apple knew what to leave out. There are surely lots of bells and whistles that Apple could have crammed into the iPod. But they didn’t. They kept it simple. Because most people simply want to play music. Microsoft? They’ll pack every conceivable feature into the Zune. It’ll play DVDs, make your coffee, wash your laundry, and fly you to the moon.

But it won’t be an iPod. That much is certain.

Updated: Joy of Tech sheds some light on the origin of the Zune name.

Updated again: Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk says Microsoft’s iPod killer is doomed from the start:

Microsoft’s new strategy, like many tech companies looking to break into a new market, is to offer new features you can’t get anywhere else. But, as Microsoft itself proved over the years, features alone don’t win technology wars. Having dominated the PC market with its Windows monopoly, Microsoft should know that cracking into a closed ecosystem is often a quixotic affair. Charging at a competitor whose products not only dominate but set the standard in quality is suicidal.

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