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Analysts comment on Microsoft ‘iPod killer’ plans

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Monday, July 24, 2006
News Categories: iPod

Following Microsoft’s confirmation of its Zune player and media store, several analysts have chimed in with what the company’s plans will mean for Apple and Microsoft’s partners. Analysts stressed that Microsoft will likely be hurting its own partners more than Apple. “While the focus is on Apple, we believe this move will likely have a much larger competitive impact on Creative, SanDisk, Sony, Samsung, iRiver, Archos, and others,” said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “Microsoft’s action could also make partners think twice before deciding to work with the company on future projects. We view Microsoft’s entrance into portable media hardware akin to a civil war.”

Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research also said Microsoft’s allies will take the brunt of the move. “Early market share isn’t likely to come from disgruntled iPod users looking to switch,” said Gartenberg. “The real losers in the short term are likely to be the likes of Creative, iRiver and other former partners that have failed to deliver to market share from Apple and will now find themselves not only competing with Apple but with their former partners from Redmond.”

Analyst Mike McGuire of Gartner Group said that Microsoft may not have any more luck than Sony has had in challenging the iPod’s dominance. “Having those assets is no guarantee of success,” McGuire said. “It is going to be very difficult and require people power and effort as well as a lot of money.” McGuire added that Microsoft could be spreading itself thin by taking on the iPod and iTunes at the same time it plans to launch its new Vista operating system.

AmTech’s Wu noted that Microsoft will have a hard time recreating the iPod and iTunes experience. “Replicating the ease-of-use and experience of iPod + iTunes is a difficult endeavor, not to mention likely to infringe on Apple’s patents,” the analyst said. “In our opinion, Sony has come the closest in creating a pleasant experience with its Walkman cell phones, but its success has had little to no impact on Apple (likely because customers use the Walkman phones mostly as cell phones). It remains to be seen if Microsoft can create a pleasant, seamless user experience.” Wu also said that Wi-Fi features will hurt the Zune player. “The biggest issue with this is that Wi-Fi power requirements are still quite steep and so we are skeptical that battery life will be strong on these Microsoft portable media players,” he said.

Despite Microsoft’s uphill battle, Bear Stearns Equity Research analyst Andrew Neff expects Apple to respond with new innovations to widen the innovation gap between the iPod and Zune player. Specifically, Neff sees Apple focusing on four areas: wireless, content, storage and platforms. While Zune presents a “clear challenge” to the iPod, “the competition is not new—there are plenty of music players and music downloading services but the challenge for any tech company is to obsolete your products or someone else will,” the analyst said.

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Comments

1

How can anyone assume that MS is going to take away market share from the other players? Sure, it’s admitted that the iPod is likely to retain steady sales, but there’s no reason yet to assume that MS is going to leap-frog Creative, iRiver etc.

OTOH these players don’t have much momentum so it could be a completely open game.

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on July 24, 2006 at 5:00 PM (PDT)

2

MS should just stick to making crappy software.  They’re good at it and it pays them well.

Posted by Michael Palin on July 24, 2006 at 5:11 PM (PDT)

3

Microsoft has already either made a huge blunder, or been unfairly burdened by the media with an insurmountable objective by allowing their new device to be labeled as an ‘iPod Killer’.  What shoes to fill.

Having said that, I will be game for a new concept to enter the marketplace.  As much as I like my iPod, I think there is room for a lot of innovation.

The key to their success is the software as much as it is the player.  Remember, millions of people are using iTunes without an iPod.  If they launch a killer app they will be more than halfway to wherever their gonna end up in the digital music game.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on July 24, 2006 at 6:18 PM (PDT)

4

Will the MS player have the familiar blue screen when it crashes every few days?

MS should stay out of this market. The market is already flooded with alternatives to the iPod and I don’t feel the MS label would add any type of leverage or product momentum. That is, unless they package the hardware and software as part of their operating system!

Over the past number of years Apple has made a great comeback, not only with the innovative iPod, but with an excellent operating system and focused rebranding. MS should look towards constantly improving its products rather than poking its fingers into every nook and cranny focused towards consumers.

Yes, ther is room for innovation and there are times I wish for additional features to my iPod, but let’s leave the creative thinking to the experts at Apple.

Posted by Kenelamb on July 24, 2006 at 9:55 PM (PDT)

5

It’s easy to forget that Apple was not the first to market with mp3 players by quite a few years. It’s also easy to knock MS all the time, if Linux is so great why has it not moved into the Number One position if “everyone” hates what MS is doing. I have had many mp3 players and the iPod is my latest and I like it. If MS or Sony were to come out with a more reliable player with more feartures, selecting shuffle on any playlist for instance, I would take a look.
This game has just begun and is wide open, yes Apple is innovative but also gets stuck in a rut when it thinks it has found the right formula.
Bring it on MS, show us what you got, we may like it!!

Posted by Silver Kamel on July 25, 2006 at 3:13 AM (PDT)

6

The purpose of ms’s challenge is to take a percentage of market share from apple’s dominance over the digital music market.

While ms inventors plot their stratagy to take down ipod, it occurs to me that their focus is misplaced and should be on technology AND lifestyle. These are things that apple has mastered.

Zune will need to become “lifestyle cool” which is something that cannot always be created.

Oh, and by the way, while ms tries to get cool, Apple silently and secretly plans the launch of 4 new ipods this Christmas.

Oh, to be in the catbirds’ seat.

Posted by al h on July 25, 2006 at 3:30 AM (PDT)

7

“Will the MS player have the familiar blue screen when it crashes every few days?”

So familiar I haven’t seen one for about 5 years in spite logging thousands of hours under Win2K and WinXP during that time.

MacHeads should remove that head from their collective arses: MS’s OS has been as good as OS X for stability, if not more so, for many years now. At this point, it is purely a question of which small touches to the GUI you prefer, there is no superiority for either as far as stability or technical features go.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on July 25, 2006 at 4:35 AM (PDT)

8

“This game has just begun and is wide open, yes Apple is innovative but also gets stuck in a rut when it thinks it has found the right formula. ” - and Microsoft doesn’t get stuck in a rut when it thinks it has found the right formula?  That’s been their entire history, back to the old days of MS-DOS (where they just stuck with the same old thing and only bothered updating MS-DOS when DR-DOS got too good and they noticed people were switching from MS-DOS). 

I agree, innovation is a good thing, but the question is, is that what MS has planned with Zune?  So much of what we’ve heard about it so far is how much they are trying to make it like the iPod.  It really makes it sound like the music player equivalent of MS’s obsession with topping the Mac (with the original Windows, 3.1, 95, XP and now Vista).

We can expect many things from MS, and sometimes they even get things right and bring something new to the table, like they’ve done with the XBox and its Xbox Live service.  But their overall history points to something else.

Posted by Zadillo on July 25, 2006 at 5:16 AM (PDT)

9

“MacHeads should remove that head from their collective arses: MS’s OS has been as good as OS X for stability, if not more so, for many years now. At this point, it is purely a question of which small touches to the GUI you prefer, there is no superiority for either as far as stability or technical features go.”

I’m sorry, but this is a joke.  I use both Windows and OS X (I use OS X at work, and I built a PC which I use at home with Windows XP), and it is ridiculous to say that the only difference is which small touches to the GUI you prefer.  I’m not going to say OS X is perfect, because it isn’t…... I’ve had a few occasions where they have been some sort of lockup or at least individual apps that have crashed.  But it has been nothing like the hassle I still have to deal with with Windows, where it seems much more common to find applications that crash it, driver conflicts and various other problems.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this; it’s the nature of what XP is. 

But to say that it is on the same level as OS X is really ignoring the problems XP still has, even today.  Is Vista going to make things better?  Perhaps…... from what I’ve read it sounds like it should.  XP itself is still solid, but it isn’t the superstable perfect OS you’re trying to portray it as either (and of course, neither is OS X).

Posted by Zadillo on July 25, 2006 at 5:21 AM (PDT)

10

its funny how everyone here bashes m$....but i bet most of ipod users are using it on a windows based computer…i myself dont have an ipod nor do i plan to join the hype….i already have my ipod killer.creative zen vision m.anyways i’d like to see how the final zune turns out and if it looks good.i’ll be picking it up..and o yeah i hope it has great intergration with xbox 360

Posted by raj on July 25, 2006 at 11:17 AM (PDT)

11

It’s funny that people talk about the BSOD for the Zune when my ipod crashes more than once daily. This isn’t a g3 ipod either it’s a black video ipod. Not only that, it is slow to switch menus, it has trouble switching songs, sometimes the menus won’t work so I have to reset it and many other problems I encounter on a daily basis. Maybe before talking about a BSOD on a yet to be released product y’all should concentrate on the one that is already out on the market.

Posted by Victor on July 25, 2006 at 4:52 PM (PDT)

12

“MS should just stick to making crappy software.  They’re good at it and it pays them well.”

Well said, Michael. wink

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on July 26, 2006 at 3:54 AM (PDT)

13

“I’m sorry, but this is a joke. “

No, it’s not a joke. I’ve been building computers for years, use OSX daily, I am an ex-Mac owner, and I talk tech with my IT Mac friend weekly and we’ll both tell that there is no difference between the OSs for stability or usability (beyond the fact that he obviously prefers Macs and I prefer Windows boxes).

Any driver conflicts are what is known as PEBCAK, i.e., you configured your computer poorly. If you took OSX and actually expected it to handle several dozen motherboards, different chipsets, graphic cards going back seven years ago, etc. I guarantee you’d realise what an achievement XP is next to Apple’s intentionally crippled OS.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on July 26, 2006 at 7:49 AM (PDT)

14

Code Monkey:

I dont understand you. You always seem to come here are reduce EVERY conversation to a mac vs pc or M$ vs Apple debate. If you dislike Apple and it’s products so much then WHY ARE YOU HERE?

Most of us have grown PAST the M$ vs Apple debate, so why can’t you? Get a LIFE, man!

Posted by ahMEmon on July 26, 2006 at 12:43 PM (PDT)

15

It wasn’t code monkey that started the MS bashing. And if you think most of the people here have grown past the MS vs Apple debate then you have a very selective memory.

Posted by Victor on July 26, 2006 at 3:46 PM (PDT)

16

A co-worker installed Office 2000 [this is in 2000] on a newly bought laptop that had proprietary government stuff installed on it. It was known that I’m a serious Mac head and I got ribbed for it constantly.

As I pass, literally, behind him, his installation of Office 2000 bluescreens. I only said ‘Well, at least they chose a nice color blue’. He swore at me for 15 minutes solid smile [Je t’aime tout de meme, Gas!].

I like Michael’s observation [very astute], but I’m not going “our’s is better than your’s”. It’s pointless, it convinces no one.

The thing is that Zune is touted to be an iPod-killer. Pick a number, man. A product should not be brought to market to kill another product. A product should be brought to market because it solves a problem for its customer [be it functionality, life style, price point, whatever]. If the customer experiences added value, they will buy the product.

I -want- Microsoft to bring a good product to market. Why? Because it will inspire the Apple designers to make an even better product.
Incidentally, I think the functionality built into the iPod should be finite. If you build everything you possibly can into the device, it’s going to be on a par with a cell phone, the bulk of their users don’t even know what it can do because a) they don’t RTFM [are you nuts!] b) there are far too many buttons on them and c) they are so hard to navigate that people won’t bother to use the functionality.

iPod should not become more complicated than it is. It’s success is [also] due to its simplicity of use. Put 15 buttons on it and users will see no difference between iPod and the next player. The hardest part for the designers must be to resist the temptation of adding that ‘just one’ extra button to it.
iPod needs no more buttons. There’s already exactly enough buttons on it to allow the user to do what they need. The whole ‘less is more’ thing…

Posted by Jorge on July 27, 2006 at 6:01 AM (PDT)

17

Code Monkey:

Windows Irritant Not Fixed Since, like, Ever: Unplugging USB memory/drives/cameras etc.

Say I have several things plugged in via USB; a mouse, keyboard, floppy drive. I plug in a USB memorystick, it mounts, I use it briefly, then I go to unplug. To do it ‘properly’, I need to go to the system tray, click, choose to unplug hardware, click, select from a confusing list of attached items, click, click OK, click to dismiss dialog telling me the device can be safely unplugged.

On OSX to remove a device, I press ‘Eject’ against the device, then remove it. Hmm. Which is simpler I wonder?

Regardless how stable an OS is, and XP is very stable, minor irritants like this put me off. Why can’t MS just put in a bleedin’ ‘Eject’ button? The one bit of OSX I don’t mind them stealing.

Posted by zapod on July 28, 2006 at 3:47 AM (PDT)

18

or you could just take the device away and the OS automatically recognizes the device is gone.

Posted by Victor on July 28, 2006 at 9:38 PM (PDT)

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