Welcome to Zune Thoughts - the Beta!
I'd like to welcome everyone to Zune Thoughts, the most unfinished Thoughts Media site we've ever launched. As the post title indicates, this is a beta site: there's a line in Braveheart about "playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes". In the same way, Zune Thoughts is an unfinished site about an unreleased product, running atop an unfinished content management system layered over incomplete forums. Sounds a bit crazy doesn't it? Let me explain a bit further about why I'm doing this.<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;">Why Zune Thoughts?</span> From everything I've read about the Zune, it seems like it will be a great step for Microsoft to take. I don't own an iPod. While there are many things I respect about the iPod and what it's good at, I very strongly dislike the Apple way of "Do it our way or no way at all". I think there's a great opportunity for the iPod to have some serious competition, and in the end all consumers will benefit as every company in this market strives to make better products. I think Microsoft has the long-term vision and fortitude needed to succeed in this market. And in many ways, I think it's a step they need to take in order to stay relevant in the area of portable entertainment.<br /><br />I've been involved in the Pocket PC/Smartphone world since 1997, and I've watched as Microsoft developed software, gave it to their OEM partners that do the hardware, and the end result was often less than impressive. That's not to say that all OEMs are incompetent or Microsoft is perfect in their execution (there are certainly software problems with Windows Mobile), but the idea is that when Microsoft leaves the "destiny" of a product up to an OEM, it doesn't always live up to its full potential. I'm an Xbox 360 owner (one of the crazies that waited in line on opening day), and have been extremely impressed with what Microsoft did with that product. The Zune team is at least partially made up of Xbox 360 team members, and functions under the same corporate umbrella within Microsoft as the Xbox 360 does. This tells me a lot about Microsoft's goals and visions for the Zune. I also happen to think that Microsoft has a good track record with hardware development (more on that later).<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;">Why now?</span> I've been asked why I'd launch a site about a product that I do not own, have never seen in person, and have very little information about (that's right, I don't have any special insider information). And contrary to what some have said, no, Microsoft is not paying me anything to launch this site. This is the first new Thoughts Media site launched since 2003, and many were expecting a different topic for the next site. There are two main reasons why Zune Thoughts makes sense right now: first, timing. In order for a online community to be successful, it's vital that the community is created at the right time. As of today, there are already around a dozen Zune sites already out there, and several with forums and growing new communities. Although cooperation with other communities is paramount to me, I want Zune Thoughts to be as successful (or more so) than Pocket PC Thoughts. I want Zune Thoughts to be the #1 Zune site on the Web; the destination for everything Zune. That means starting the community building aspects early, focusing on learning everything I can about the product, and being in place for the official release of the product.<br /><br />The second reason why Zune Thoughts makes sense is the breadth of topic: Zune is a platform that incorporates hardware, software, content, and accessories. That's a good amount of topics to cover, but it's also not so broad that we'll lose focus or not be able to gain traction as a site. The difference in success I've seen with <a href="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com" target="_blank">Pocket PC Thoughts</a> and <a href="http://www.smartphonethoughts.com" target="_blank">Smartphone Thoughts</a> (both focused on a platform) compared to <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com" target="_blank">Digital Media Thoughts</a> (focused on a concept or trend) has taught me many valuable lessons about the sweet spot of content and community focus.<br /><br />I have some great team members from other sites helping out here, so over the next few days they'll introduce themselves and we can all get to know each other as we prepare for the launch of Zune. More to come later from me on many of the above topics, but for now let's start talking about Zune!