Microsoft Zune takes on iPod

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Tom Keating
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Microsoft Zune takes on iPod

Microsoft HP-h6315 mobile phoneAs several news sites have reported, Microsoft plans to release a new music and entertainment player and accompanying software under the "Zune" brand this year to challenge the Apple iPod media player. The latest Apple iPod plays both music and videos with the ability to download TV shows and now even full-fledged movies via iTunes. Microsoft hopes to take some of the 70& marketshare from Apple which has dominated the portable media player market.

The sad thing is, Microsoft could have dominated this market had they minituarized the bulky PocketPC years ago. The PocketPC enjoyed some success, but never really took off. Part of the reason was that PocketPCs were too bulky to use as an MP3 player while jogging on a treadmill or just walking down the street. Even when Dell launched the Axim series of PocketPCs, which were thinner and lighter, it was too late. Blackberries stole the show for remote email access and the iPod stole the show for portable music leaving PocketPCs out in the cold. Even though the PocketPC could do remote email, play mp3s, as well as GPS navigation and other functionality, it unfortunately suffered from doing too many things "ok" and did not do one thing really really well.

Dell discontinued the Axim PocketPC series, and Windows Mobile 5 finally put the final nail in the coffin for PocketPCs. Why have a dedicated PocketPC PDA when you can get a Windows Mobile 5 smartphone that is a PDA plus a phone, and all the other functionality - mp3 player, calendar, email, etc.

Personally, I'd rather Microsoft offer a smartphone that can store >20GB of music and video content rather than try and compete with Apple's "one trick pony" iPod, which doesn't have smartphone functionality. All of the cellphones or even smartphones I have used have a terrible built-in MP3 player or didn't have enough storage. Most smartphones use SD/miniSD cards instead of hard drives to conserve battery power. If Microsoft were to offer a Windows Mobile 5 smartphone with >20GB of multimedia storage, decent standby/talk time, and an intuitive user interface (iPod-like) then I'd buy it in a nano-second.

So Microsoft, take my advice and forget about competing with the iPod with a single purpose "Zune" media player and instead offer a compelling converged device that does everything the iPod can do and more all on an easy-to-use smartphone. As a gadget-lover, this would be my dream device and I'd auction off my current iPod on eBay faster than you can say "buh bye iPod."

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