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Former Microsoft Exec: Zune Was a Mistake, We Were Just ‘Chasing Apple’

Former Microsoft Exec: Zune Was a Mistake, We Were Just ‘Chasing Apple’

The Zune media player was among Microsoft’s least successful products of all time, despite the fact that it offered features at the time that Apple’s iPod did not, such as wireless song sharing and support for a larger number of formats.

Considering that the Zune wasn’t actually a terrible media player, why did it fail commercially? According to former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach, who lead the company’s entertainment devision through the rise of the Xbox, as well as through the days of the Zune, the reas0n is simple: It was nothing more than an attempt to chase Apple, and it came to market far too late.

Speaking at a Northwest Entrepreneur Network event in Seattle (via GeekWire, Engadget), Bach stated:

If I had hindsight, 20-20, and could do Zune over again, we would skip portable media players completely. […] The portable music market is gone and it was already leaving when we started. We just weren’t brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple with a product that actually wasn’t a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.

The Zune may have seen a great deal more success if it were released sooner – although the device also suffered from other issues, such as poorly written desktop software that was confusing to use, and no Mac version of their sync software – which is significant, considering that many iPod users also used Macs.

It’s a bit sad, really. I owned a Zune back in the day, and I actually liked it. If Microsoft would have played the game a bit more proficiently, they may have given the iPod a bit more competition – and the iPod may have gained features like song sharing and support for additional formats as a result.


  1. Shandooga says:

    No!  I thought it was a totally original idea!  Such as that for which Micro$oft is known. >_>

  2. William Carr says:

    Making the Zune was kind of a reflex action.   M$ has been copying Apple for three decades now… 

    But they forgot their previous successful copies were all leveraged into markets they could wrest away from Apple.   The consumer space is one-on-one.   They can’t beat Apple in that arena.

    Now, Windows gave them an inferior tool they could use to dominate the business markets, and that worked.  Because once they offered their cut-rate software on cut-rate PCs, businesses snapped it up.

    Once businesses get started on a platform changing is a pain in the …A$$.   Even though the IT budget for securing Windows became a financial drag, they stayed with it.

    But individual consumers can change their minds at any time.  So the inferiority of the Zune’s software became an issue and it didn’t gain traction.

    The Windows Phone looks to be the same.   Nothing stellar.  Nothing compelling or cool.

    So M$ is in the uncomfortable position of being an “also-ran”.   They have to compete on the merits of their hardware, instead of being able to capture a market from the top down.

    And I just don’t see them coming up with new ideas.   They’d need a built-in projector, (not new), seamless WiFi ability, to save users minutes whenever possible, and transparent Aluminum screens to really stand out.

  3. JG says:

    I’m glad to see someone, hell anyone at MS finally admitting publicly what they were doing with the zune and that it was a total turd.  Now if they would just admit the same for Windows ME, Windows Mobile, the current crop of Windows phones, Hotmail, and Bing.  Then they would finally garner some respect for at least being able to be honest with themselves and the public.

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