Zune

thanks IP; excited to be here :slight_smile:

Stay tuned on getting answers. the design team is extremely busy, so it might be a few days. as soon as I hear back, I’ll post. Take care,

cesar

PS, Cesar…I am just a hop, skip, and a jump down to you guys. What do you say to setting up a hands-on demo for some of the designers on the Core77 forum and located in the Pacific NW?

IP, I’d love to do a meetup with you and some ofther folks from this board. I’ve done a few already (http://www.zuneinsider.com/soup/index.html)

how many people from this board would show up?

I could prob fire up, your just a ride up the 5 from Portland

My only obstacle at the moment is my wife is going to have a baby that is due any time now.

If we can schedule something for mid-november that would work best for me…but don’t hold off on my account.

Cesar, thanks for joining the discussion. You brought up something that has been in the back of my mind throughout this entire Zune discussion - the Xbox 360. Core77 also had a thread on the 360 which can be seen here: New XBOX
This 360 discussion was out of control most of the time, bit the 360 being released in the limelight of the ps2 seems a bit similar here with the Zune and ipod.

In that thread, a link was posted to a Seattle Times article that provided me with some good insight on MS’s choices of direction for the Xbox 360. Here is the article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002276090_xboxdesign16.html The parts where Apple is brought up seem important to me here.

Looking forward to some of your answers to the questions.

thanks again for the welcome,

Eddison: I read through the thread, and re-read the Xbox 360 design article (I worked for Xbox before joining the Zune team). Seems like the reviews of the 360 in the thread seemed varied, albeit I didn’t read every single comment. IMHO, it’s one thing to react to a design based on a picture on a website; it’s another to use the product and then react to its design. I’m not a designer, though, so I don’t presume to know: which is why I forwarded the questions so far to Steve Kaneko.

As I see them, some of the parallels between Zune and Xbox:
well-established competitor with market dominance (sony/apple); appeal to specific audience (######## gamers/music lovers); future-proofing of hardware which enable cool updates (broadband in Xbox/wireless in Zune).

I’m going to defer to steve (kaneko, not ballmer :wink: on how specifically the xbox 360 design process influenced or parallels Zune. It’s one of the questions I asked him (see page 6 of this thread for full list)

as for the meetup, I think we can do more than one. How does 10/28 sound for a meetup? In seattle.

Cesar_

I think that might work… I’ll hit you up via email.

Mike

did the Microsoft team take into account future possible developments from Apple? If so, how much?

I just read this. Apparently the rumors have been true
:

Comments?

ZUNE looks like it will be the 8-track of the 21st century!


Just came back from my extended surf trip (2 years), hows u all?

That story is garbage. If there was going to be a new ipod then it would have been introduced when the new nano and shuffles were announced so that consumers and retailers would be able to prepare. If you consider that the Zune will only be available in the US this christmas. That leaves Europe and Asia for apple to clean up with very little competition. Apple is getting down and dirty on price for this christmas so;

September 2007 is when the new ipod will arrive.

Hi everyone
Tried to read the whole thread but may have missed a few things.
I have a few points that address some of the issues that were brought up.
I know the original point is that Zune looks like iPod but design is not the beginning or the end of any product story. Here are my points:

Point 1
Apple did not come up with the idea if the iPod.
Tony Fadell did while at Philips. He tried to get Philips to produce it but the marketers some of you complain about did not take it up. Without the other business disciplines, designers would be poor artists.
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,64286,00.html

Point 2
It looks like an iPod.
For the given constraints that a device like this has, and given what the suppliers are capable of that can produce a product like this, combined with the nature of the MP3 player competitive landscape, I think MS designers did a good job.

I do not think other designers could do better under the same political and competitive landscape.
If a supplier is capable of producing quality products then they have something similar to Apples products that you can buy off the shelf. (faster and cheaper but still ok for the first player)

Some suppliers won’t work with you because they have Apple contracts. You may be a great designer but having it produced is something different.

This is not to make excuses for MS designers but just to give some small insight on what it takes to design and produce a product such as this. This is not a low end MP3 player with thousands of technically able suppliers available. There are a huge number of constraints with something like this.

Also, as much as I wish that everyone had and made their buying decisions on their design sensibilities, sadly most of the world doesn’t know or care enough to do that.

Point 3
This could be an iPod killer.
There were many other MP3 players before Apple used Tony’s idea and made the iPod. It was not the player that dominated, but the ability to easily access and use the content that made it a success. (“the whole idea”) If MS has a better offering, then Apple will lose market share or better yet, MS will create a bigger market.

Point 4
Apple does not have a strangle hold on the world, just the US.
iTunes is not available in Asia. So they don’t care that much about “the whole idea”. Gaming is huge in Asia and if MS can offer something that addresses gaming, a P2P network, or communications then 3 billion people will be buying Zune players.

Aigo sells ten players in China for every one Apple sells. Also too many fake iPods, so the cool factor has been diluted.

Transferring your content to a player is done much different in Asia and Europe. MS “plays for sure” sucked but zune should be much better. This should work well in a non-iTunes market.

I too would like to hear from the MS designers. Hearing case studies always teaches me something. This is why I love the C77 forums.

I’m going to sort of disagree with this. I think most of the world doesn’t know that they actually DO care. …and I think Apple has done a good effort in defining what this means in their process. Jobs may not have a design degree and sure he lets the professionals do what they do in the company, but he is a USER (professional user?)of the product just like anyone else who might wander in an Apple store and buy something.

You’ve basically said that MS did a good job because of what existing suppliers were capable of offering them! This is the heart of the issue that spawned this thread: it appears to be (literally) “in the box thinking” that’s leveraging suppliers that exist in the wake of the iPod. It’s pure incremental innovation, where the iPod is textbook revolutionary innovation (in both product and service.) Is that wrong? Fast-followers are proven to win in the long term… I just don’t see how the Zune will be considered the fast-follower given what they’re offering in competition. I still believe that MS is after the non-iPod MP3 player market (like in Asia as you’ve suggested.)

No one can argue that the gap between the original Creative Nomad and the iPod is an order of magnitude wider than the gap between today’s Zune and and iPod line. That kind of objective comparison is how I’d measure how good of a job they’ve done.

d-flux: no surprise to folks here, but our competition doesn’t tend to share their product roadmaps with us :wink:

And as someone who’s helped try to correct speculation about our own future products, I take the gizmodo post w/ a grain of salt until I hear it from Apple directly.

I told Steve Kaneko to get the questions you all posed earlier in the thread back to me by EOD today. Which, in Microsoft speak, can mean before 9:00 am monday. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

I usually refrain from defending myself because I don’t want to sound like I am attacking anyone, but I have one clarification for Eddison and an elaboration for cg.

Eddison, I agree with what you said, but I think you misunderstood me. I agree that “most of the world doesn’t know that they actually DO care” (about design) but what I said was, “I wish that everyone had and made their buying decisions on their design sensibilities” This is to say that most of the world (EU and US are about 1/7 of the world) does not have the ability to recognize and appreciate design. This inability is due to not having been exposed to it. If they were, I am sure they would care.

There are so many fake iPods in China but I was amazed to find out first hand that the common person could not tell the difference when set side by side. You or I could tell the fake a mile away (or a Kilometer away if you are not from the US :slight_smile:. Most people only saw a white top with chrome back and a round wheel thing. They did not even notice the lack of co-molding, the part line between the screen and the front cabinet, or all the shrink marks, uneven part lines, and bad proportions that I saw on the fake. Being American and a designer, this was a big eye opener.

Cg, unless your company is prepared to either buy a factory or place a PO for over a million units with BOM costs of around US$200, you will have to stay within the box. This may not seem like it is a big deal, but when you add in the facts that Apple has 80 percent market share in the US, and you are trying to make deals with distributors that could handle that many players from a new entry (as big as MS is they are still small in the MP3 area) combined with all the marcom costs, royalties, and taxes you are going to have to lay down to compete with Apple, this becomes a huge, huge undertaking for an underdog. If worked out in a business plan you would be losing money on every player (as MS will). Apple can make it happen because they do own the factories and they do place million unit PO’s. Plus the factories will lower their profit margin just to work with Apple because it will turn into business from others. It is just about business strategy. BTW, I wonder if Apple does not include a FM receiver just because they don’t want to pay the radio tax in Europe. Well, probably not the best bang for the buck either.

I would disagree that “iPod is textbook revolutionary innovation”. The MP3 player had been around for sometime, Napster and the other P2P networks were also around. People were already doing the “iPod idea”, just with different businesses filling each area. As I stated, the idea had been around at Philips for several years before it was brought to Apple. Philips did not do the software/hardware combination thing. Their structure was not setup for it. But doing the SW/HW combination was exactly what Apple was already doing. MS still does not do the HD/SW combo thing very well (IMHO). It is not the game they are playing. But they do have a hold on the gaming/internet/software thing. If Zune plays to these strengths then MS may just get a big foot in the door.

There are a lot of students that read these boards, I would hope we would emphasize that being a good designer has a lot to do with understanding business and the competitive landscape not just making the coolest design ever. Otherwise we are relegated to being stylists and that would be missing the point of design.

I think by now you are getting the idea that I may have had some personal experience going up against Apple. I don’t work for MS so I would be very interested to see what they have to say. I am quite sure that Apple is on their benchmark analysis. I am just interested to see how much of a roll did it play. I would be very surprised if it was not a major influence. Even if just to say, hey, that is them, they have that area, avoid it if possible but learn from them.

why would you announce you super-flagship with your recent new updates? so that people will wait for it instead of buying your products that just hit the market? that didnt make sense to me. Apple is well known for “freshening” up their look slightly and making small improvements for every release they make. everyone will want the new ipod, which isnt incredibly different from its predecessor (except for ipod video perhaps) but they still sell a buttload.

I posted the article not for the release date as much, but for an upcoming ipod that will surpass the Zune’s features. If the Zune and new Ipod touchscreen widescreen wireless thing were released 6 months apart, with the Ipod released at the later date, would you think the Zune would have a chance at long-term success?

Completely understood. I guess my question was: this Ipod rumor has been around for quite a while. Did the Zune team take possible future products like this into consideration for their design? Even if it is a rumor, there is still a possibility its true, and if it is, then Zune will face much tougher competition. If it is not, and the Zune DID take it into consideration, then they would offer a much more advanced/more value in the product, and give the Ipod a bigger threat.

I’d say that’s a loosing strategy then!
Forget the price, DESIRE defines what things are worth.

Like I said initially, MS is going to have to be COOLER or CHEAPER than the iPod, and I just don’t see how cheaper is going to help them win, except to sweep up the other 20%. COOLER is possible though, there are plenty of unmet user needs, I just haven’t heard about the ZUNE solving them.

If you want to win today, you need to be following a “Blue Ocean Strategy.”

I would disagree that “iPod is textbook revolutionary innovation”.

Check out the “iPod innovation thread” to find out why you’re wrong.

There are a lot of students that read these boards, I would hope we would emphasize that being a good designer has a lot to do with understanding business and the competitive landscape not just making the coolest design ever. Otherwise we are relegated to being stylists and that would be missing the point of design.

Totally agree. Your comments about iPod knockoffs are a good lesson to learn: The “coolest design ever” today means a lot more than designing some object that can be duplicated. We’re all living in an Experiece economy, and iPod was tailor made to the American experience. “Designed by Apple in California” speaks volumes.

Ok, I got response back from Steve and posted the questions you all posited in Zuneinsider today. Check it out:

http://www.zuneinsider.com/2006/10/interview_zune_.html

Thanks, Cesar!

I have to admit I am still left wondering about some things with respect to Zune and its Design. I have posted a long winded response over at my blog: http://www.aialone.com

In short, I am still left disappointed by the similar design language between Zune and iPod and I am still wondering how/why it was allowed to be so close in appearance. Steve’s “small sandbox” theory doesn’t sit well with me.