Join Date: Aug 2006
Reactions of a Zune Fan to the September 2009 iPod Announcements
Because I'm sitting here watching the superb gdgt coverage of the Apple iPod event, I figured I might as well multi-task and jot down some point form reactions and thoughts on what I'm reading. It's important to understand what "the other guys" are up to - that's the main reason why I bought an iPod Touch earlier this year; I wanted to understand how the App Store worked, to see how good the browser was, and to get experience using the on-screen keyboard. Here are my reactions to today's Apple event, in chronological order:
- Good to hear Steve Jobs is healthy - organ donation is so important. I've signed my organs away if something happens to me, and you should too. If you're dead, they won't do you any more good, so why not share?
- 1.8 billion applications downloaded - that's a huge, impressive number. Apps matter. Microsoft has always said that software matters, but they've historically done a poor job of showing that on Windows Mobile and the Zune. They're finally getting rolling with a Windows Mobile app store, but apps on the Zune are still a bit of a question mark. Sure, we've had a couple games since the last generation units, but no cohesive plan on Microsoft's part to roll out a Zune games store, or to sync up with what the Xbox guys are doing.
- iTunes is in 23 countries. The Zune Marketplace is in one. Microsoft's US-centric approach with the Zune is maddening...I thought there was some light at the end of the tunnel when they launched the Zune in Canada last year, but we never got the Zune Marketplace here, and now the devices being sold here are being killed off. "Disaster" is a good word for how well the Zune launch went in Canada. Between the Zune HD being US-only at launch, and all of the IP-based geographic blocking madness that the Zune software and Web site does, it's like the Zune team is doing everything they can to alienate everyone in the world outside the US. More after the break.
- The ability to sync music/videos from one PC to another is neat, but Apple is still focused on a peer to peer system and is ignoring users who want to centralize their media content (NAS drive, Windows Home Server, etc.). I wonder if iTunes 9 will finally monitor music folders?
- The new iTunes store design is a rip-off the Zune Marketplace. That's OK though, it's the right way to go. You do the right thing for your customers, regardless of whether or not someone else has done it first. I wish Apple zealots would keep that in mind.
- The iTunes LP concept is really interesting - I wonder how it will be "packaged". Will you get all the rich content on your iPod? I've always thought there was a great opportunity for the Zune to display more of the ID3 tag info, specifically the Comment and Lyrics field. Talk about low-hanging fruit! Sadly no one on the Zune team seemed to agree enough to make it into the product.
- The iPod Touch 8 GB at $199 presents a real problem for the Zune, because the Zune team thought that killing off their two current form factors was a smart move. Now the cheapest Zune is $219.00. Sure, it's only $20 more than the 8 GB Touch, but the $199 price point is a powerful psychological force (as Apple pointed out). The good news here is that by eliminating the 16 GB iPod Touch, Apple is forcing people to make a $100 price jump, and at retail that's a huge jump. 16 GB is enough storage for a lot of people, so the Zune HD has an opportunity to steal sales from people who want more than 8 GB, but aren't willing to spend $299.
- Munch. Munch. Munch. That's the sound of me eating my keyboard after I made this comment over at mobility site stating that there's no way Apple could get a 64 GB iPod Touch down to the $399 price point. I'm really surprised that Apple can do a 64 GB iPod Touch for $399, but I guess with their massive purchasing power on Flash memory they can do what no one else can do. They must have used thumbscrews on the Flash memory guys to get the pricing to make that happen! Plus, let's not forget that the iPod Touch didn't get the camera abilities everyone thought it would.
- So other than the iPod Touch getting cheaper (8 GB @ $199), and it getting bigger (64 GB), it really brings nothing new to the table. Sure, the 32 GB and 64 GB versions are faster (welcome to the world of platform fragmentation Apple!), but still no microphone, no camera, same screen resolution, no HD anything? The Zune HD wipes iPod Touch off the map in terms of hardware features and performance. That's good news!
- Apple kept the iPod Classic in the line-up for people with big music collections, increasing the storage to 160 GB. At $250, there's a lot of value for the storage dollar there. The Zune team has decided this is market they don't care about going after, which I think is a shame - when you're the underdog, can you afford to alienate music lovers with big music collections? The Zune has always been about music and entertainment more than the do-everything-PDA that the iPod Touch has become, yet by only offering Flash-based models of the Zune HD, only people with small music collections need apply. I can't help but think that's a bad move.
- The Shuffle continues to be a bizarre little device with its lack of controls, but it's small, cheap, and perfect for going to the gym with, jogging, going to the beach, etc. You care a lot less about a $59 MP3 player than a $399 MP3 player. I think it's a huge mistake for the Zune team to drop the small form-factor Zune. If I ever manage to convince my brain to take me back to the gym again, I'm not going to strap my expensive, 32 GB Zune HD to my arm. I'm going to bring a cheap SanDisk Sansa Clip, a device that's a pain to sync music onto. I'd much rather be using a really small, Flash-based Zune (even if it didn't have a screen).
- The camera on the iPod Nano is kind of neat, but HD is all the rage now - so is VGA video really going to be that useful? I guess it's better than nothing - the best camera you have is the one you have with you when you need to take a picture - but I was expecting 720p, and for it to be in the iPod Touch. A camera + microphone + apps = magic for developers. Apple wants to keep their developers from having too much fun though, and that's an opportunity for Microsoft. Add to the mix a voice recorder and FM radio, and the Nano is more of multi-purpose device that people will find useful. More than once I've wished for a voice recorder on my Zune - there are just times when you need to record something, and I don't own a dedicated voice recorder. Interesting to see FM radio being included there after years of Apple scoffing at the idea, laughing all the way to the bank as they made fat royalties off the third party companies selling FM radio adaptors worth half as much as the device in the first place. I'll be interested to see if any of the Apple fanboys who mocked the FM radio on the Zune start using the FM radio on the iPod Nano for any reason. It can be more useful than you think...
So there are my thoughts on the Apple announcements today. What are yours?
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's surprised how useful he finds his iPod Touch.
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