Unwelcomed to the social

Zune vs iPod world map

You would think a company will try to sell as many of its products as possible for maximum profit. But no, not Microsoft. Not with the Zune. Not only will Microsoft not sell Zunes in Australia, but they actually discourage anyone from buying one through a reseller in case you really wanted one. That kind of enthusiasm is unacceptable. At the same time, iPods are selling better than hotcakes, owning up to 80% market share in Australia. The same probably applies to much of the world, you know, in countries outside of the United States. Yeah, there’s a handful of those.

Speaking of iPods, in 2001, Apple launched the first generation iPod worldwide on a global release date. That is, in at least 26 countries with official Apple stores plus retailer partners in countries without Apple presence. For a much smaller company back then, they certainly understood the concept of a global marketplace. It’d be damn hard today to find a country which won’t sell you an iPod, even when there’s no iTunes store.

The ridiculous reason why Microsoft won’t sell its Zune anywhere outside of the United States, not even beloved Canada, is because of the lack of regional music stores. If you were to ask me, I think that’s a stupid business decision based on ‘glass-is-half-empty’ reasoning and it’s actually hurting the brand in the long-run.

Believe it or not, Australia didn’t have an iTunes music store until late 2005 – 4 years after the introduction of the iPod. But that didn’t stop anyone from buying an iPod and loading their own content onto it for the first four years. The fact is they sold iPods and made money without a music store. Apple only made more money with the iTunes store.

You might say well, “music might be pretty important in a music player”, but the Zune is not just a music player. Music is only one of the six features of the Zune. The others being video, sharing, pictures, radio and podcasts. All of which have an abundance of content in this or any developed country.

Even music is plentiful if you think about it – peer-to-peer, DRM-free MP3s and free from indie-artists.

I have plenty of recorded TV shows (both legitimate and not-so-legitimate), movies, cute cat videos, radio stations, podcasts and vidcasts I’d love to listen and watch on a Zune.

In fact, I hardly listened to any mainstream music on my previous media player. It was all freely available content that is compatible with any media player, including the Zune.

You could argue the same for the iPhone, the phone service is kind of essential but otherwise a great device, so why is it too a US-only device? The difference here is that Apple is proactively working to get the iPhone into other markets. In a matter of 3 months, they’ve already established partnerships in Europe and Canada. The Zune team on the other hand haven’t managed one in a matter of 12 months as of next week. It’s not like Microsoft doesn’t have a worldwide presence and might have a hard time negotiating with music labels. But it’s because they’re not trying.

Consumers are not hopeless without some sort of integrated music store. Sure, a music store will make the integrated experience much richer, and probably sell more devices, but I believe the device on its own is worth buying. That’s how they sold MP3 players before the iPod and if I recall correctly, people still bought them.

I should point out though the Zune is not impossible to get in Australia. There’s a handful of them sold new on eBay, through a few online retailers and as well as the trusty Microsoft Australia employee. But that’s not to say there’s no risk. Even though Microsoft has said they’ll refund any defective devices in Australia, there’s no guarantee of warranty or support when required.

I’ve even gone as far as asking Zune’s public relations to buy a review unit. They didn’t even bother to respond. Frankly, I’m sick of waiting. My next alternative is an iPod Touch and I’m sure Apple will be glad to profit from me.

Jailbreak, anyone? 🙂

22 insightful thoughts

  1. Microsoft is a marketing company. How can you be an enthusiast about a marketing company?

    If you enjoy technology, then get your head out of MSFT’s marketing material. Sure MS makes some decent products, but they’ll tell you all of them are great.

    As the 800 pound gorilla, they will do whatever they can to ensure that their technology works best if not only with (gasp) their own technology. Being strapped to a single supplier for anything leads to crappy products and high prices.

    Google, Apple, Adobe, and Open source have been responding to this problem and from their success is proof that other’s can make great products and that they don’t have to be strapped to any other product (such as an operating system). It’s called interoperability. MSFT like to throw the word around, but they won’t do it until they are forced to by the market. And that day is coming.

    So stop being an unpaid Microsoft shill. MS shills suck Cartman’s balls.

  2. I agree, Zune 2.0 seems good enough to be launched outside of the U.S. as well. I assumed Microsoft wanted to make sure the Zune was “good enough” before taking it out of the U.S., so it wouldn’t be the same thing as the first launch.

    But they sure are taking awhile.

    @Billy : Microsoft is a software company. The only ‘marketing’ they do, is just web ads. I hardly call that marketing. Especially when some of Microsoft’s ads for it’s own products are rather sad.

    If there’s any tech company so focused on marketing, that’s Apple. Those “get a Mac” ads are rather deceitful, and can/should be considered as lies. And Apple has been known to take some ideas from other ads, and place them in their own : http://www.engadget.com/2007/07/05/apples-little-problem-with-ripping-off-artists/ The latest one, where Apple copies the same song from a Zune ad, in their iPod Touch ad.

    And you’re 3rd paragraph sounds more like Apple as well, than Microsoft. The last time I remembered, you’re free to use Windows wherever you want, do whatever you want, and make whatever you want. Macs are stuck with OS X, indefinitely, and with a still low 3rd party programs, Apple practically dominates its own computer on you. Apple isn’t any different in making products that have defects, like Mac screens being washed out, iPhones with bad defective screens, etc.

    You know, Microsoft makes things for the Mac as well you know. MS Office? And the stuff Apple throws on Windows is rather crappy work.

    I don’t mean to bother with drivel like yours, but when somebody makes up lies and such – on any person, issue, or company, or whatever, I throw an argument back. Most of what you say is rather silly nonsense.

  3. Maybe the hardware doesn’t create profit (same with the Xbox 360) and therefore they have to sell music over the official store?!

  4. Like any major corpoation, they have the ability and infrastructure to release Zune products about anywhere on the planet. It’s always been amazing to me how many places you can go and find a Microsoft keyboard, localized with the local keyboard layout, with the software, box and manual translated to the correct language.

    Could it perhaps be for legal issues? Without their own music store they could be seen as encouraging piracy and without supporting playsforsure, they’ve locked out any local stores from utilizing the device. I can hear the eagerness of some EU lawyer waiting to buy his new yacht right now.

    Of course that doesn’t really explain the lack of Canada, Australia or other former colony’s lack of Zune, since we tend to bend-over-backwards with regards to Microsoft – especially when it comes to pricing.

    Pesonally, I replaced my ailing Rio Karma with a Creative Zen, although its lack of some basic functionality (like changing the order of a playlist on the device?) annoys me, it does the job.

  5. Even though I do live in the States I think this policy is shite. The only angle I see is that without a music store ready to go for those regions Zune users may get used to the idea of using the Zune without the Marketplace so when it does finally roll out in their regions they won’t bother to try it. Of course this is crap but I can see some sales creature thinking exactly this way.

    I bet this is frustrating for the Zune developers and PR team. As a software developer I’ve had to do a lot of silly things inside the software just to appease an artifical market limitation. To not have a regional release schedule for other countries a year after the Zune has launched is pretty damn painful. Seems for every step taken they take a half-step back.

  6. I too am pretty annoyed at Microsoft especially since they haven’t even given an estimate as to when they’ll launch.

    Anyway, I want a Zune2, to me it easily beats a comparable iPod (In price/size, etc) and I don’t care enough about my PMP to buy an iPod Touch.. so I’ll be ordering one via an online store or so as soon as possible.

  7. Lol, amusing images! Good point. I’m tired of US-only stuff. For example, I’d love to participate in the Windows Feedback Program – I wouldn’t even mind not getting a “gift” in return. Why exclude the rest of the world?

  8. it’s simply horrible…… we need to see anything else than those s***** iPod !

    personnaly my phone is better than every Apple product (iPhone, iPod touch, etc…) just take a loot at the HTC TOUCH … Microsoft is currently working with HTC for the Windows Mobile 6.1 .. I hope Microsoft will take some good ideas from this good entreprise…

    iPod has a too big price … more than twice what it should cost..

  9. I think it’s the same reason for why they also haven’t enabled the dozens of features that a Windows CE based device is capable of: they want to focus the brand as much as they can. Start in a very small box and work up the quality of a limited set of features in a smaller, more manageable population before branching out into different scenarios/countries.

    Also, Apple has a ton of people working on the iPod and the marketing associated with it. I wasn’t aware that the Zune team can match Apple in personnel. I remember that team being kind of the small side, so to me, it seems a bit improbable for them to worry about any venture outside of the US just yet.

    BTW Long, I received the book. Thank you so much!

  10. Or perhaps its the same reason foreign hardware companies (sony, toshiba, samsung, and a 100 others) launch hardware in their home countries LONG before it comes to America? Or perhaps Microsoft would rather make a good first impression with an international audience, rather than have them stare blankly at the zune’s ENGLISH interface, manual, and packaging.

  11. I agree with Long. Microsoft should get the Zune out (at least into richer bigger countries/markets) ASAP. No time to waste here. It’s all about building a big and strong brand.

    And as for the iPhone. Microsoft should have released a ZunePhone from day one. They have the software, the hardware partners and we all know the market is there… but then I guess it’d be a US only product so what’s the point?

  12. “My next alternative is an iPod Touch” – I did just that. After not wanting 2 buy into Apple’s largely DRM’d ecosystem, I went in search of alteratives. There were none. None that could compete on the same scale of music library, podcast integration and hardware device, an end-to-end solution.

    Enter Microsoft + Zune.

    After hearing the Zune Marketplace was much improved to co-inside with the Zune 2 launch, I installed the app to check it out, only to be met with a “Zune store is not available in your region” message.

    So I ended up bitting the bullet and bought an iPod Touch.

  13. I think tino has it – Microsoft can’t make a profit off of the hardware because they are sold for far less than they are worth – just like the XBox. In the XBox’s case, Microsoft can make plenty of money off of selling games. But if they don’t have their own store here, they can’t sell music here, and they can’t make a profit here.

    Basically if they started selling Zunes here without the store, they’d be making a loss.

  14. I think you are letting your emotion get the best of you. Microsoft could just release the Zune everywhere but it would entail a lot to get it right. If they didn’t get it right it would just hurt their name or give people a different impression of the product. The whole point of the Zune is to provide a seamless and cohesive experience. You said they don’t provide support in other countries. To do this they actually need to set up a comprehensive system to cover this efficiently. They say they can not guarantee support because they just don’t have reliable support there yet, not because they don’t like other countries. You sound as if they are doing this to hurt you or to deny you something, when they are actually try to do the exact opposite. The Zune team I’m sure is still not that big or strong yet; just like all other digital audio companies Microsoft is releasing the Zune in their main market first. Unlike other companies though Microsoft has more to do since they are building software and an online store.

  15. Tired of politicians never listening to your opinions?

    The Australian Government is thinking about setting up a forum/blog to allow the public to discuss policy and legislation.

    Have your say on what form that forum should take here.


    Yes, it’s genuine.

  16. zune will never beat the ipod unless it gets in thwe ipod markiets.
    the ipod is widely sold in the middle east and far east. unless microsoft gets a grip on dubai markets and KSA market and japa/korea/china it will never beat the ipod or over sell it.
    the should get the price as low as $120 at least for the people to adopt it’s new toy. i won’t buy a zune nor an ipod which costs $350. way too pricy for me. i can get a new mobile phone wi\gich costs whis much with all the options of an ipod + a 2 gb memory.
    that is the truth, and i think a lot of people think this way.

  17. i’ve been using the Zune 30 since launch and i plan to get a Zune 80 when it finally comes out. i live in Trinidad and i’ve bought music via the Zune Marketplace. no problems, no hassles.

    i honestly don’t know what’s keeping them from expanding the base to outside US. the device can already do localization. is this really just a packaging issue?

  18. All I have to say is that Microsoft is going to get its as# kicked in 2008, 2009, and 2010 by the likes of Apple and Google. Both will upstage their products over and over again and Microsoft will find itself hounded even in the console, OS, office suite, and server markets.

    That said, the new Zunes look pretty decent and I might pick one up.

  19. I recall reading a while back that there were legal issues with launching Zune in Canada, so I’d imagine the same would go with Zune in other countries. The problem was the music sharing – the major feature of the Zune. I could be wrong, though.

    Here’s the article:

    Personally, I’d love to pick up a Zune 80, but I’ve recently gone exclusively MacBook. Don’t hate me! 🙂

    If anything, that Jailbreak should open it up to be used on Linux and Mac in the US, too.

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