There’s no new info here for Zune fans per se, but I’m linking to this for one reason only: It appeared in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, which goes out as part of the Sunday paper as is decidedly aimed at non-technical people. My guess? This will be the first time most people had heard of the Zune past perhaps a single random ad somewhere. Plus, I enjoyed the moxie of the opening paragraph quite a bit when I read it on the Kindle yesterday. ;)
When the Microsoft Zune digital music player first appeared, it was the latest in a long line of gizmos to which the phrase “iPod killer” was hopefully attached. And let’s be clear about something: This column makes absolutely no suggestion that there is any credible evidence that this is happening. The most recent figures from NPD Group, the retail-data collector, showed Apple’s device holding 70 percent of the MP3-player market, compared with 3 percent for the Zune. (This put Microsoft in third place, behind SanDisk, at 10 percent.)
Rather, what this column wonders is: Who is buying Zunes, and why? After all, market share aside, more than two million of the things have reportedly been bought by somebody since the first version appeared in late 2006 ... in fairness, the product offers some distinct features, like a built-in FM radio receiver. And there is Zune Social, meant to let owners share playlists and actual music.
But the most salient feature of the Zune seems to be that it’s not an iPod ... owning an iPod seems roughly as individualistic as a gray flannel suit. Add to this those Apple ads pitting a cool Mac against a hapless PC: they may boost sales, but they have also inspired vitriol among those who find Apple loyalists snobby and smug.
That bit about the lack of individualism strikes a chord: Apple users like to think of themselves as “different” but they’re only different in the sense that all goth fans are different—despite the fact they’re all interchangeable. I touch on this a bit in my upcoming Mac to Windows Switcher Guide, hopefully in a humorous fashion.
In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I believe his article may have touched off an idea I had yesterday about Microsoft and its products. There was a time when people would switch to Linux or the Mac specifically to avoid Microsoft’s products, whether it made sense or not. And certainly, there is a crowd of people who avoid Apple and its products for similar reasons. I was wondering if there was a crowd of people, then, who very specifically stick to Microsoft products—Outlook, Hotmail, Money, Windows Mobile, whatever—regardless of the fact that compelling (and even baldfacedly superior) alternatives exist. Guys who essentially go “all in” on Microsoft. You know, guys who actually buy a Zune because, yes, Microsoft makes it.