Editorials: My Changes to Zune’s Strategy
My grandparents once told me that the only things in life we can count on occurring are life, death and taxes. They were right of course but I would like to add new iPods to that as well. This past Monday we saw what Apple had up their sleeves. An iPod Touch to rule them all, a iPod Nano that seems to have lost its luster, and don’t forget 2008’s iPod Shuffle. We also got a look at how Apple intends to innovate in the media space, that is to say they won’t be at all. It seems they are poised to copy any exciting features from Zune, or other media ecosystems. To that I say, awesome. If that announcement tells us anything (other than Coldplay needs a new front man), it shows us that on the software side at least Apple maybe it’s weakest. That got me to thinking, if I was running Zune, what would I do to kill or better compete with the iPod + iTunes, what would I do? Warning ladies and gentlemen, the ideas I’m about to propose to you are both highly lucrative, and highly dangerous.
Don’t do a massive fall update.
I think one of the big problems with any music player that isn’t manufactured by Apple is that when you release any new device, in September or October you are asking to get drowned out by the Apple hype and PR machine. I completely understand that during those months a majority of consumers make their buying decisions, however how can they choose to buy your product if they haven’t heard about it because everyone posted a press release and kept it moving? My idea would be to move any talk of hardware updates to the spring when all is silent on the pocket devices front. Yeah you may lose some sales, but let’s be honest, are they really selling lot hot cakes now? Also turn any major announcement into a PR spectacle. For the launch of Zune 2 you guys held a midnight presser on the campus. Do that again, only this time tell folks in advance, and live stream it. Clearly Apple is going to copy you going forward. They know just like we do that you will update in September, knock them off their game.
This year for example is a challenging one. Windows Phone 7 will make its debut later this October according to the rumors. Kinect, will debut in November. Hell, Halo Reach is set to arrive this month. I think it’s safe to say you guys have enough stuff coming out of the Entertainment and Devices Division to keep yourselves busy, and your customer’s wallets empty. The Zune HD also presents another problem for a fall release. Your early adopters aren’t buying that the device you sold them last year has been used to its full potential, and if you think you can convince them otherwise, -you can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. To make matters worse the marketplace for handheld devices has changed profoundly. Your argument for why people should be a touchscreen device, with no applications comes off as at best lame, and at worse insincere. To make matters worse, you can’t run to developers and ask them to spend time and money making edits to their code, for a device that doesn’t have a large install base. The only option is to do release a new device that runs the same internal hardware as Windows Phone 7. That takes away any need to port anything backwards. Of course that also may piss off the currently fan base. My point is that a Zune this fall is complicated. You guys have painted yourself into a corner and you aren’t going to make it out unless you make a tough call.
Bottom line, don’t be predictable. Let Apple have this year. Wait until the spring and rock it Apple style, that’s the shock. Then awe them with a device that is just as capable as the iPod Touch, and fix its flaws. That’s the awe.
Appoint one person to lead.
Another problem that Zune seems to have is a lack of vision throughout the entire platform. It’s almost as if it’s being run by committee. We need one vision, one person. XBOX had J, iPods have Stevie J. Even Palm has John Rubenstein.
Bring back the social advertisements.
Wait until January when advertisement rates are usually lower, and bring back the social ads. Out of all of them they were the best. Yes, they were strange as all hell, but they fit the brand. Speaking of branding it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go back to the idea of pushing a singular message each year. For the past year the Zune marketing message has been a little all over the place. Since Apple is focusing on the being more Social, I suggest that you do the same. You’ve been building a social network for three years now, and it’s only big down fall is how many people use it. If Apple wants everyone to focus on finding new music show them why you had the idea first. The social is your stick; now beat Apple to death with it.
These are just a few of the changes I would make. To me it doesn’t seem like Microsoft has a bad product, just that they can’t seem to get out of their own way. What’s your advice, what improvements or changes would you make to their strategy? Tell us in the comments.