Last night, Microsoft launched the second generation of their Zune personal media players. In all honesty, the players actually look pretty sharp although they resemble Apple’s previous generation of iPods.
The big question is whether or not anyone will actually care that there is a new version of the Zune available. In all of my travels, I have not yet run into one person who owns a Zune, and most of the people I work with are technology workers. I would have expected to see at least one of those guys with a Zune especially considering their allegiance to Microsoft’s server and development products, but that is not the case at all. I’m sure most of you can guess which player they have. That’s right; it’s an iPod! Even with people that usually swear by Windows and Microsoft’s other products, they turn to Apple for their music and video playing pleasure.
Engadget did a nice side by side comparison of the Zune and iPod, and on the surface, the Zune has a wider feature set, but they left out one very important specification. They left out the cool factor. Apple has created an aura of cool around their products like no other company in history. When it comes to cool, it is very difficult for a company to compete with Apple, and in the media player business, cool matters. People don’t want to walk around or ride a train or plane with some lame piece of hardware. What would people think? They want the coolest thing on the market, and right now, that is the iPod.
I am glad to see Microsoft is introducing new Zunes because it will push Apple to make their products even better, but I’m afraid that the poor old Zune will be an afterthought before it even gets started.