Nice find… that slide show was painful though.

I invited him over to contribute to our painfully (mostly) one sided discussion.

Hey, you should check out this conversation about the Zune over on core77.com : > how to get your ideas manufactured

It is mostly one sided, with comments by iPod lovers (like myself) but it would be great to get the other side of the story.

Maybe we could get some of those questions about the design process of the device answered?

Hi, everybody.

This is Cesar, from http://www.zuneinsider.com. I’ve been reading through this thread, upon invitation from “YO” (hi, Yo,). Took a while to register (slow email servers today) but here I am. I’ll just list off a few things about Zune, to answer some of the running through the thread.

Let’s see, a few things about the design process for Zune:

I think the design team aimed to be somewhere between these: Natural/Machine/Human/Synthetic. It’s a lot of the same team who designed the Xbox 360 (anyone used that before?). Now about the wheel. We went with a directional pad - instead of a click wheel - so you can navigate both up and down, and left and right. So you can be browsing up and down in artists and jump to albums w/o hitting back.

You raise interesting points about Zune’s wireless. The way I think about it; it’s analagous to launching the xbox (2001), putting in a broadband connection into every unit. Then Xbox Live launched one year later. with Zune’s wireless, it’s a similar story. Since it’s built into the hardware, it enables future scenarios: updates to firmware just like folks get updates via Xbox Live.

Ok, I know that it might be taboo for my first post to be a rant, but if you have additional things/things I didn’t cover, let me know

Cesar! Welcome!

What role did design play on the project, particularly in relation to marketing?

Hi Caesar:

Thanks for coming by. Any chance you can talk to someone from the design team and have them come by to comment on the design process?


Steve Jobs is damn good at his job. From the 37Signals blog:

QUESTION: Microsoft has announced its new iPod competitor, Zune. It says that this device is all about building communities. Are you worried?

ANSWER: In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

What an answer. With a subtle style all his own he’s saying Microsoft = Cold tech and Apple = Humanity. MS scares her away, Apple gets the girl. That’s a sharp, clear, and powerful distinction. Whether it’s true is up to the customer, but Jobs understands how to bait the hook like few others.

The above link links you to the full Newsweek article.[/url]

Hi folks,

I noticed that quote. . . interesting.

to your point, ip_wirelessly, I’m going to shoot some questions over to our design director, Steve Kaneko.

if you have specific questions, please drop a comment. I’ll gather and get an answer. So far the only question I have is from cg: What role did design play on the project, particularly in relation to marketing?

I’ll post the answers in one go, both here and on my site.

Sound good?

Thanks Cesar, that would be awesome.

I got a few questions:

was there a centralized design team in charge of all aspects (physical device, accessories/cables, interface, packaging, branding) or did separate teams design those elements?

at what point in the process was ID brought in? After marketing decision to make an MP3 player? After initial engineering proof of concept model?

How important was it too look like the iPod (market leader) vs having a unique visual identity?

were outside design resources used? If yes, how/why?


Yo has hit a good short list of questions to start the dialogue. I am excited to see you are open to this discussion, Cesar.

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,


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.


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


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


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.

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.