Brown Is Not the new White

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on December 7, 2006

A story by my colleague Jay Greene describes Microsoft execs’ happiness with the initial sales of the Zune handheld media player. But I suspect the sound out of Redmond is mostly whistling past the graveyard.
brown_zune.jpg
Zune hit number 2 in retail sales among music players during its first week on the market, according to data compiled by market researcher NPD, but fell back to #5 in the week ended Nov. 25. Data from Amazon.com suggest a bleaker picture. On Dec. 9, the black Zune (Amazon counts each stock keeping unit, or SKU, as a separate product) was the 60th most popular consumer electronics item with Amazon customers. That’s a good performance only in comparison with the brown Zune, which ranked 292nd, and the white model at 423rd, suggesting that if you want to sell a white music player, it had better be an iPod.

The best selling Zune was outsold not only by 13 iPod models (which accounted for 4 of the 5 most popular consumer electronics items) but by five non-Apple music players. The SanDisk Sansa M240 was the hottest of the un-iPods at #6.

Of course, given Microsoft’s deep pockets and staying power, it would be a serious mistake to write off the Zune this early. The company has yet to launch a serious promotional effort behind the player; instead Microsoft’s Devices & Entertainment unit has been putting its marketing heft behind Xbox 360 in its battle with the Sony PlayStation 3. This makes sense, since Microsoft has product to sell and Sony doesn’t.

Still, I have to believe that Microsoft expected a better launch than this for Zune. And the future is clouded by evidence that Microsoft is having a really bad time winning content owners’ support for the new platform. The get music from NBC Universal into the Zune Marketplace at launch, Microsoft had to agree to a precedent-setting deal that will pay Universal a royalty on every Zune sold. And there’s still no movie or television content available for download, negating the big screen advantage Zune has over iPod, at least for the moment.

Reader Comments

Erik

December 8, 2006 11:45 AM

All the spin in the world will not gain the Zune any real market traction. At least not before MS revamps the player. I expect they are watching these threads and taking notes.

The crippled wireless feature needs to be opened up, the Zune store is a joke, the non-PlaysforSure compatibility is an expensive slap, and the desperate attempts to be hip just fail because its so easy to see the desperate attempt.

Apple's iPod is an elegant solution. It can be improved for sure but it does what it does very, very well right now.

sulequan

December 9, 2006 12:36 PM

"The get music"?

Dave Colvin

December 11, 2006 1:42 AM

This is a great example of Microsoft coming into a market with much money but little clue.

Jeff Manders

December 11, 2006 11:53 AM

I've got the brownie and love it! Got some nice cases too at zuneone.net!

Nate

December 18, 2006 11:36 PM

I'm not surprised that the Sansa is the top non-Apple music player. It doesn't have the huge capacity and sign value of most iPods, but it's a whole lot cheaper and 1GB is really enough for those of us who just need something for walking and workouts.

Amanda

December 28, 2006 12:04 AM

The Zune is ten millon times better than the ipod and easier to use. i synced 5 GB of music in a minute and a half. It automatically organizes your music by album, artist, year, genre, and playlists that you have created. it also organizes your pictures by folder and date. the sound is awesome!!! You can customize your own background using one of your pictures and pick your own color scheme. The display is extremely high quality. Best player ever.

Jon

December 28, 2006 4:29 PM

Music Music Music! What the Zune is good for is sharing pornography. No DRM.

martin

February 3, 2007 6:21 PM

"The Zune is ten millon times better than the ipod and easier to use... It automatically organizes your music by album, artist, year, genre, and playlists that you have created. it also organizes your pictures by folder and date. "

um, and an ipod doesn't do this?

m.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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