Zune, XBox, Trojan horse

It looks like the Zune is a flop. At least in the conventional sense of market share against the iPod and portable music players. This is predictable with the kind of PR that came before its release.

However, I highly doubt the Zune was meant to be just a music player. Earthlings know that the industry vision has been that of a central computational and storage hub in the home or on the network, and portable anywhere devices as terminals. It’s old news, but I guess it’s time to get pushy when vanilla home PC’s are already in pretty much every home and old usage models require no more computational power than is already available.

In this context, the Zune is a way to dump a preferred portable devices platform out there so Microsoft can write software for it. Windows Mobile on PDA is another one of those things, but far more people buy music players and cell phones than full-blown PDA’s (I’m guessing). One has to be a bit deceptive about what is really going on when pushing these devices, which is why the Zune is “just” a portable music player, when in fact, it is a big screen with computational capabilities and built-in wireless, so with a software change it immediately becomes a generic portable device. Microsoft has done this before, certainly. The XBox was “just” a gaming console — for a while. Not any more, despite J Allard’s early protests to the contrary. It’s clearly a computational and storage hub that just happens to be accepted in the living room. Intentionally implementing an accepted specialized device within a generic platform embodiment so that the specialization can later be removed is like Trojan horse marketing, I suppose (no revelation here, just a personal reflection), but it remains the case that the Trojan horse must be a gift worthwhile enough to be accepted.

By that measure, the XBox achieved a level of success as a gaming console by having some compelling features, but the Zune did not. The Zune was too similar to practically everything else. Maybe if the Trojan horse were a cell phone instead (iPhone?) or a car-device (GPS+music player?), Microsoft would have had more success. Actually the GPS+music player idea isn’t bad. It is getting pretty popular, but only a bunch of small random brands are selling it, with inconsistent interfaces and idiotic software as a result. There is where Microsoft could have made a difference — as it already has a well regarded PC-based navigation solution and user base from that.

So there you go, Microsoft. Keep the 2-cent change.


  1. February 18th, 2007 | 14:41

    Well put, even as PS3 is a (Blueray) trojan horse, so is Zune for (insert item)

  2. February 18th, 2007 | 17:22

    [...] Original post by Aggregated News Alerts and software by Elliott Back _uacct = “UA-308578-9″; urchinTracker(); Uses 3-Column Anaconda Theme design by Simple Thoughts. RSS Entries and RSS Comments [...]

  3. December 19th, 2007 | 15:33

    Wow…Quite a discussion. For those in need of additional information on the Zune Media Player its Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. The Zune can play music, movies, games and more. All that you need to is the proper software to convert the files into the proper format. Zune Empire has quite a bit of information on how all that works.

    Anyone who has done just a small amount of research finding media for a Zune, iPod or PSP will have figured out that the are many sites to download music and movies. You will also find yourself in the middle of the debate on file sharing and the repercussions of it.

    Though those with an iPod who are looking for ways to transfer all their iTunes to their Zune will be happy to know its now possible with the proper conversion software. Love to hear comments on any of the above topics.

  4. November 11th, 2009 | 12:24

    [...] At first I wasn’t too impressed with the technology. In terms of conception, popping up content on a page isn’t too much different from what people naturally do by opening tabs or what designers do in more laboriously manual fashion. Sure it looks nicer and saves work, but is that really going to revolutionize the web? Does that befit the ridiculous moniker web 3.0? Of course not. If that’s all there is, it’s a flash in the pan and stupid. But when I realized that server-side embedding is really what they’re doing, I recognized the Trojan potential in this, and I must say it’s a brilliant business move and sets up for potentially much more exciting technologies once they get around to implementing it. Everybody is trying to sell platform these days, and they do this by taking over your browser and making it merely a passive window, like a television set. If Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, or Facebook can just get you to surrender your browser to them by installing one of their “platform” tools, then they’re set. They can leisurely figure out on their end what they can deliver to you, which is: whatever they want. What happens on the server side they can control. [...]

Leave a reply