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View Full Version : Quick Reminder: The iPod is 5 Years Old


Michael Boutros
12-02-2006, 06:00 AM
Since the Zune launched exactly two weeks ago, people left and right have been comparing it to the iPod. People are saying, &quot;Why doesn't the Zune have as many features/accessories/versions/users/whatever as the iPod?&quot; The answer is very simple: the iPod has a 5-year head start.<br /><br />I have gone ahead and dug up the <a href="http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/10/23/1816257" target="_blank">article on Slashdot that announced the release of the iPod.</a> When the iPod was released, it had a measly 5 GBs of storage, 10 hours of life, and was pretty big. The word accessory had been unheard of. The iPod was labeled a total dud. Can you say deja vu?<br /><br />Sure, the Zune is pretty big. Sure, it has some flaws. Sure, it may be getting outsold by iPod <u>chargers</u>. But hey, it is a first generation product, and I am really losing faith in any tech reporter who labels a product a loser because it doesn't beat out the 5-year old champ in a measly two weeks.<br /><br />What does everyone think?

mrozema
12-02-2006, 07:38 AM
I'm down that that.

People are far too quick to judge everything and anything. Someone is always critisizing Microsoft for something, but they're still very much alive and kicking.

I'm an early adopter of the Zune and overall its a great device. I have no problem believing that Microsoft will make it so much better in the future.

Matt.

Vincent M Ferrari
12-02-2006, 08:30 AM
I think there are plenty of good arguments to make for a wait and see atitude, but that's the worst of them.

Yes the iPod had a 5 year lead, and that's exactly why the Zune should be more than it is.

5 years ago, when Apple created the iPod, there wasn't a mass-market appeal for MP3 players. That market now exists, and people are much more informed about what an MP3 actually is. Apple didn't just enter the market 5 years ago, they pretty much created it.

The Zune is a 1st generation device in a land where manufacturers have been producing devices for years. Do I expect the Zune to be perfect? Of course not, but to argue that it's less than it could be simply because it hasn't been around 5 years is just the wrong argument to make, plain and simple.

Let's put it another way. Suppose I come out with a car tomorrow, and I don't put air conditioning in it. Can I make the argument that it's my first car? Obviously that's a weak argument when every other car does have it. I'm entering a market where cars have air conditioners, therefore I need to put air conditioning into mine. It really is that simple.

The Zune will grow and mature and by no means is this the last one, but let's not toss weak excuses up and all pat ourselves on the back for coming up with them.

Sage
12-02-2006, 10:52 AM
I don't think that it's a good argument either.

it had a measly 5 GBs of storage, 10 hours of life, and was pretty big.That's right, but that was back in 2001. Back then the iPod was a revolution in size, capacity and design. HDD-based players were virtually unknown, especially at such a small size. Sure, compared to today's players it's only got 5GB of space and it's pretty big, but in 2001 it was an amazing technological feat.

It was a revolution, even if sales at the beginning were modest. I don't see that from the first generation Zune.

flatline response
12-02-2006, 02:17 PM
The Zune is a 1st generation device in a land where manufacturers have been producing devices for years. Do I expect the Zune to be perfect? Of course not, but to argue that it's less than it could be simply because it hasn't been around 5 years is just the wrong argument to make, plain and simple.

A fair assessment, I think. But frankly, so far I don't have any such issues with my Zune hardware. It's true that it's not the groundbreaking design that would've knocked the iPod and all the others off their feet, but is it reasonable to think that any such beast short of a fully convergent beast (DAP/phone/PDA/GPS/Swiss Army Knife/TV remote/hairbrush/your desire here) exists? Particularly at the price point that the Zune currently resides in?

I do think MSFT should've been much more aggressive in its pricing considering how iconoclastic and mammoth the iPod culture is already. But IMO the Zune itself as it stands is easily the equal of my 5.5G iPod once all the third-party accessories are taken away, even if it can't pretend to be a PDA or try to mimic being a half-baked Gameboy.

MarxMarvelous
12-02-2006, 06:51 PM
It depends on how you look at it... if people are saying buy an iPod now over a Zune, then I think that's justified. Being in the market now, you're looking at what's available now regardless of which generation it is. It is similar to people giving the PS3 an easy time because it doesn't look as good as 2nd gen Xbox 360 games.

But, if people are writing off the future of the Zune platform, that's clearly shortsighted. In interviews it has been mentioned that the entire team came together and went from concept to reality (launched) in a year (!). That is impressive IMO. So, maybe the real question is: will the Zune team be able to improve and innovate quicker than the iPod team that has grown relatively stagnant.

Of course, there are those who argue that they should have given it more time until they had something better to launch, but I disagree with that. Despite the reviews there are plenty of people out there happy with their Zunes. There is a lot to be said for getting your product out there, both for brand purposes and getting many thousands of users for validation and feedback which is impossible to achieve without launching a real product.

For the record, I am waiting to see what 2007 holds for next-gen Zune and competitors since my Rio still has some life. :)

Macguy59
12-03-2006, 03:33 AM
Drawing comparisons to a 5 year old device that was at the time revolutionary as a basis to justify the Zunes shortcomings? Ok . . . little weak though IMO. No one to date has given a reasonable explanation for the Zunes initial offering. Jason and others point to the short product cycle but really is that a viable excuse? What did MS have to lose by waiting a few more months to get it right the 1st time? The iPod line is already dominant so were not talking about marketshare. Recoup R&D ? Not buying that either. MS has shown that it's willing to lose money on something it believes in in the short term.

Janak Parekh
12-03-2006, 05:32 AM
Yes the iPod had a 5 year lead, and that's exactly why the Zune should be more than it is. You nailed it on the head. Not only that, Microsoft has had PlaysForSure partners. They've been working with these guys designing players. So, in that sense, the Zune is far from first generation -- especially the desktop software, which is at least second-generation, as WMP10 was the first to support Janus, and Zune is clearly derived from WMP11. So I don't buy this "first generation" argument.

But, if people are writing off the future of the Zune platform, that's clearly shortsighted. In interviews it has been mentioned that the entire team came together and went from concept to reality (launched) in a year (!). That is impressive IMO. So, maybe the real question is: will the Zune team be able to improve and innovate quicker than the iPod team that has grown relatively stagnant.
That's a question largely for industry pundits who seem to have nothing better to do than to sit around and make inaccurate analyses of the market. From the consumer standpoint, they should judge based on what they have now. If Microsoft came out and said "hey, the next firmware will have X,Y,Z," then you could make a purchasing decision on it. But, since that hasn't happened, it's dangerous to assume the platform will have certain things.

Despite the reviews there are plenty of people out there happy with their Zunes. Actually, we don't know that yet. ;) Time will tell what "plenty" means and what "happy" means. I do hope it sells well enough that Microsoft keeps on trying, but at the same time not well enough so that Microsoft gets the message they need to keep on their toes.

--janak

Michael Boutros
12-03-2006, 05:38 AM
I think there are plenty of good arguments to make for a wait and see atitude, but that's the worst of them.

Yes the iPod had a 5 year lead, and that's exactly why the Zune should be more than it is.

5 years ago, when Apple created the iPod, there wasn't a mass-market appeal for MP3 players. That market now exists, and people are much more informed about what an MP3 actually is. Apple didn't just enter the market 5 years ago, they pretty much created it.

The Zune is a 1st generation device in a land where manufacturers have been producing devices for years. Do I expect the Zune to be perfect? Of course not, but to argue that it's less than it could be simply because it hasn't been around 5 years is just the wrong argument to make, plain and simple.

Let's put it another way. Suppose I come out with a car tomorrow, and I don't put air conditioning in it. Can I make the argument that it's my first car? Obviously that's a weak argument when every other car does have it. I'm entering a market where cars have air conditioners, therefore I need to put air conditioning into mine. It really is that simple.

The Zune will grow and mature and by no means is this the last one, but let's not toss weak excuses up and all pat ourselves on the back for coming up with them.

Vincent,

I'm a bit shocked as to why you are being so aggressive. I'm sorry if I bothered you in any way. All I am saying is that the Zune is a first generation product, and that no one should expect it to be perfect or even have a chance to dethrone the iPod.

The whole car anomaly is very different. Air conditioning in a car is a standard feature. The Zune has all the standard features down. Heated seats in a car is an extra feature, just likes a calendar on an PMP is an extra feature.

It has been made clear by the Zune team that the first generation is the building block; from there they will add calendars, etc. and they will make these features available through free upgrades, kind of like car manufactures who charge people for upgrades.

I don't think that it's a good argument either.

That's right, but that was back in 2001. Back then the iPod was a revolution in size, capacity and design. HDD-based players were virtually unknown, especially at such a small size. Sure, compared to today's players it's only got 5GB of space and it's pretty big, but in 2001 it was an amazing technological feat.

It was a revolution, even if sales at the beginning were modest. I don't see that from the first generation Zune.

Sage,

I'm sorry, I agree with you, 5 GB back then must have been quite a feat. The thing about the Zune is that it has entered an extremely saturated market. If you were to show the Zune to the average consumer who already has an MP3 player and asked them if they would purchase one right now, they would probably say no. Why? Because they already have a perfectly good player that will last them at least a few more years.

If the Zune was released 5 years ago with 5 GB etc. and the iPod was released on November 14th, the Zune would the be the champion and the iPod would be playing catchup. Same scenario with Rio, Creative, etc. It's not just a matter of features, its a matter of demand.

It depends on how you look at it... if people are saying buy an iPod now over a Zune, then I think that's justified. Being in the market now, you're looking at what's available now regardless of which generation it is. It is similar to people giving the PS3 an easy time because it doesn't look as good as 2nd gen Xbox 360 games.

But, if people are writing off the future of the Zune platform, that's clearly shortsighted. In interviews it has been mentioned that the entire team came together and went from concept to reality (launched) in a year (!). That is impressive IMO. So, maybe the real question is: will the Zune team be able to improve and innovate quicker than the iPod team that has grown relatively stagnant.

Of course, there are those who argue that they should have given it more time until they had something better to launch, but I disagree with that. Despite the reviews there are plenty of people out there happy with their Zunes. There is a lot to be said for getting your product out there, both for brand purposes and getting many thousands of users for validation and feedback which is impossible to achieve without launching a real product.

For the record, I am waiting to see what 2007 holds for next-gen Zune and competitors since my Rio still has some life. :)


Marx,

You're a good example of what I mean. If you didn't have a player right now and wanted to get one soon, you'd look at a Zune, correct? However, you have perfectly good Rio and you want to milk every last day out of it before you trash it. Lots of people are in the exact same position as you, and its no ones fault.

Drawing comparisons to a 5 year old device that was at the time revolutionary as a basis to justify the Zunes shortcomings? Ok . . . little weak though IMO. No one to date has given a reasonable explanation for the Zunes initial offering. Jason and others point to the short product cycle but really is that a viable excuse? What did MS have to lose by waiting a few more months to get it right the 1st time? The iPod line is already dominant so were not talking about marketshare. Recoup R&D ? Not buying that either. MS has shown that it's willing to lose money on something it believes in in the short term.

ByteMe,

I didn't mean it like that; I meant that back then, people were way too quick to judge a device with tons of potential, and I think this is happening again. Also, MS wanted to launch the Zune ASAP to penetrate some of the holiday market and to have a better system ready by this time next year.

- Michael Boutros

Janak Parekh
12-03-2006, 06:06 AM
If the Zune was released 5 years ago with 5 GB etc. and the iPod was released on November 14th, the Zune would the be the champion and the iPod would be playing catchup. Same scenario with Rio, Creative, etc. It's not just a matter of features, its a matter of demand. This is a difficult hypothetical. Despite conventional thinking, the iPod was certainly not the first hard drive-based player on the market. Compaq deserves credit for that one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Jukebox), and Creative's Nomad Jukebox was the first "mainstream" unit. Looking at those units now... if the iPod wasn't released, I don't think the Zune would have been, either. ;) The iPod did pioneer a successful form factor for hard drives.

--janak

Vincent M Ferrari
12-03-2006, 06:45 AM
Vincent,

I'm a bit shocked as to why you are being so aggressive. I'm sorry if I bothered you in any way. All I am saying is that the Zune is a first generation product, and that no one should expect it to be perfect or even have a chance to dethrone the iPod.

But we should expect a lot more from a first generation product 5 years into the market growing to the point where that same product is commoditized. As I said on this post, and on numerous others (a point that Janak agrees with me on, btw) is that you can't just use the first generation excuse in the portable media market anymore. It doesn't fly. There has been too much advancement for too long and there is nothing revolutionary about the Zune. Zero. What the Zune is is a solid player with great potential that was crippled by some bonehead lawyers at Microsoft who thought everyone who had a Zune was a music thief.

I'm not being aggressive. That argument is weak. If you made that same argument in 2002, you'd have a point.

The whole car anomaly is very different. Air conditioning in a car is a standard feature. The Zune has all the standard features down. Heated seats in a car is an extra feature, just likes a calendar on an PMP is an extra feature.Actually it's identical. You can't come out with a car missing features or with half-baked features in 2006 and say it's your first car 80 years after the market was built. That's my point. Try another feature. You have power steering in all the cars on the market. I come out with one that's power-assisted and it handles like crap. Can I then say, "Well, it's my first car, but the next one will be much better?"

Microsoft took the wrong route with the Zune. They took the wrong route breaking Plays for Sure. They took the wrong route DRMing non DRM'ed files during sharing. They took the wrong route locking out their partners. They took the wrong route in so many ways that they took a very good player and just broke the hell out of it. First generation is not the excuse here, Microsoft's corporate culture is.

It has been made clear by the Zune team that the first generation is the building block; from there they will add calendars, etc. and they will make these features available through free upgrades, kind of like car manufactures who charge people for upgrades.

You don't release a half-done product with a promise to update it later then use the "it's first generation" argument against all criticisms. I like the Zune. I think it's pretty cool. I think MS just royally botched it up.

I'm sorry, I agree with you, 5 GB back then must have been quite a feat. The thing about the Zune is that it has entered an extremely saturated market. If you were to show the Zune to the average consumer who already has an MP3 player and asked them if they would purchase one right now, they would probably say no. Why? Because they already have a perfectly good player that will last them at least a few more years.You can't be serious. You think iPod owners (all 80%) of them are keeping their iPods because they're perfectly good and that's the only strike against the Zune? Stop it. Please. You're killing me. People upgrade good hardware all the time.

Let me tell you a story.

A long time ago there was a company called Palm. They made this thing called the Palm Pilot. Every Tom Dick and Harry had one. Probably about 70% of the PDA owning population. Along comes Microsoft with Pocket PC's. No one bought 'em. Too big. Too expensive. Palm keeps chugging along. Nothing interesting, just minor upgrades. Color screens, slimmer devices, but the same old OS. Microsoft comes out with newer versions of the PPC operating system. It starts to gain traction but nothing significant. Then Palm comes out with new handhelds with the same OS again. MS comes out with another new PPC OS. Now all of a sudden, the devices look more attractive. Why? Because, instead of charging $400 - $500, the price dropped into the $200-$300 range and slaughtered the Palm on features.

Now, in 2006... When was the last time you saw a Palm handheld running Palm OS in someone's hand? Microsoft is so thoroughly dominating the market that Palm is making Windows Mobile handsets.

The lesson is you can't come late to the game and expect to succeed with an uninspired expensive product. The Zune, as of right now, is not lighting anyone on fire. No one is ecstatic. I hear a lot of "it's nice but" and frankly, you aren't gonna beat the iPod, at this point, with a "but."

A successful Zune is a good thing. Competition breeds innovation and that always benefits consumers. Frankly, if the plan was to just have multiple rounds of public betas, then they're doomed to failure. They'd better start fixing the software right quick, because if the rumors are true and Apple drops the widescreen touchscreen video iPod in January (and it's either gonna be that or the phone, barring a major catastrophe), there won't be a soul talking about the Zune come February and Microsoft will have only itself to blame.

Macguy59
12-03-2006, 03:27 PM
I didn't mean it like that; I meant that back then, people were way too quick to judge a device with tons of potential, and I think this is happening again. Also, MS wanted to launch the Zune ASAP to penetrate some of the holiday market and to have a better system ready by this time next year.

- Michael Boutros

First impressions are pretty important.

jimtravis
12-03-2006, 09:15 PM
I have retired my fifth generation iPod for the Zune as related in my first impression post on this board. I do prefer the Zune hardware; however, better firmware, and desktop software would have resulted in a smoother first experience for Zune owners, and possibly more positive reviews from the tech mainstream jounalists who are iPod enamored for the most part. The Zune should have included all the features of its main competitor, the iPod, as well as a few additional features to distinguish it. The Zune has a few features to distinguish it: bigger screen, Wi-Fi, nice screen themes, built-in FM radio, and an interface that is easy to use, and intuitive. My personal distinguishing feature is the Zune does not scratch easlily like some newer iPods do. I also prefer the Zune interface to the iPod's.

All of the missing features could have been included in firmware on the Zune, or the desktop software. It is nice that the Zune desktop will convert videos to the one format the Zune supports; however, who wants to wait while the video is converted? I don't. If I download a video netcast in the morning, I don't want to wait a half hour while it is converted. I want to sync my Zune, and be out the door in several minutes. The Zune should natively support more video codecs, and higher resolution videos on the device without conversion. The bigger screen on the Zune results in a better viewing experience for all videos, too bad we have to wait for the desktop software to convert the videos. Audible support should be included as well. Quite a few people use their device for ebooks. Of course, netcasts should be supported in the desktop software. You should definitely not have to go to a third party app to obtain your favorite netcasts, or manually download them from various sites.

I owned a first generation iPod. Although not the first hard drive based player, it was small by 2001 standards, had an intuitive interface, and had quick (Firewire) reliable syncs with iTunes. The main drawback for many people in the market for a MP3 player was the original price of $399 2001 dollars. I purchased one because I am a gadget geek. I used my first generation iPod for three years. My main complaint was the terrible battery life. I personally believe much of the recent success of the iPod is due to Apple's marketing campaign. When is the last time you saw an iPod add which mentioned its features or sound quality? It's been a long time since I have seen an iPod ad that meantioned sound quality, or features. The ads are hip, and are marketing the ipod as a cool device without a mention of the device's features. Also, I see many trolleys in Boston plastered in iPod ads as well as entire subway stations plastered in iPods ads for a month at a time. Give Apple credit for a very successful marketing campaign.

It would have been relatively easy for Microsoft to include all the missing features in the first verison of the Zune. Yeah, the press and others would have commented on the size, available colors etc., but they would not have been able to point to one feature the Zune was missing vs. its competition, and they may have even mentioned the unique features the Zune has vs. its competion. Unfortuantely, sometimes a first impression lasts a long time even when the product has substantially improved with updates.

One of the previous commentors mentioned the Palm devices vs. Pocket PC. I was a Palm champion until the release of the T5. Now I am a Windows Mobile champion who does not miss the Palm OS at all.

Janak Parekh
12-04-2006, 04:56 AM
I'm a bit shocked as to why you are being so aggressive. I'm sorry if I bothered you in any way. All I am saying is that the Zune is a first generation product, and that no one should expect it to be perfect or even have a chance to dethrone the iPod.
Michael,

Don't take it personally -- Vinnie is just being a New Yorker. ;) However, I do have to agree with his points. One other thought I had the other day was the fact that the Zune isn't even first-generation by hardware standards -- the UI is evolved from the Portable Media Center platform. While Microsoft wasn't manufacturing the hardware for the PMC, they still build reference designs and such.

--janak