Analyst: Microsoft’s Zune player underwhelming


Microsoft’s Zune digital media player appears to be “another classic case of overpromising and underdelivering” by the software giant, according to American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “While we have great respect for Microsoft, we are frankly underwhelmed by the much-hyped Zune device,” Wu said in a research note today. “Microsoft had hinted of an all-new design from the ground up, but from our analysis, it appears that the Zune is essentially a repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat that has seen limited success. Moreover, the software is similar to the Windows Mobile OS licensed to its hardware ‘partners’. At this point, we believe this could end up being another classic case of overpromising and underdelivering by Microsoft.”
Wu said Microsoft fumbled when not making the Zune’s control pad functional like the iPod’s click wheel. “Like the Chocolate phone from LG and other vendors, the Zune includes a fake click wheel that does not scroll nor is touch pressure sensitive making navigation difficult, particularly for users with large music, video, and photo libraries,” Wu said. “We find it interesting Microsoft also opted to replicate an iPod-look like most others, but failed in replicating one key piece of the unique iPod experience with its scrolling click wheel and powerful database engine. We believe this key ‘look-and-feel’ feature may be difficult to replicate without infringing on Apple’s extensive patent portfolio.”

Wu said he continues to believe that creating a complete device-software solution similar to Apple’s iPod and iTunes is nearly impossible. “Replicating the ease-of-use and experience of iPod + iTunes is a difficult endeavor, not to mention likely to infringe on Apple’s patents,” Wu 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).”

In addition, the Zune player will likely only have success against Microsoft’s own partners, according to Wu. “To us the portable media market is divided into two camps—iPod + iTunes (the de facto standard) and Windows Media,” he said. “We believe Zune will likely see some success due to Microsoft’s strong brand name and strong marketing effort. However, we believe its success will likely come at an expense and be limited by its lack of differentiation vs. other Windows players (CREAF, SNDK, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, iRiver, Archos, and others).”

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LC Angell

LC Angell was a senior editor at iLounge. Angell is known for her work on various aspects of the Apple ecosystem, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod. In his role at iLounge, Angell was responsible for a wide range of editorial content, including reviews, buyer's guides, news, and features.