Houston Community News >> Microsoft Zune MP3 Player

7/22/2006 -- Microsoft confirmed rumors Friday it planned to launch an "iPod killer," saying its challenge to Apple Computer's dominant MP3 player would hit the market this year. Zune, Microsoft's new "music and entertainment project", is aimed at taking market share away from the massively successful and overwhelmingly dominant iPod MP3 digital music player, according to the software giant's marketing manager Chris Stephenson.

"Under the Zune brand we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year," Stephenson said in a statement. "We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow customers to explore and discover music together."

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Microsoft planned to go head-to-head with Apple's iPod player and iTunes online music store, most likely in time for the Christmas shopping season, said Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg, who was briefed on Zune. "This is a much bigger war than a specific digital music player," Gartenberg told AFP. "It is about the flow of information into the digital home." The iPod has helped Apple introduce its own digital technology into homes and automobiles, and the exclusivity of the iPod-iTunes linkup has created a "logjam" in Microsoft's path into the market, Gartenberg said.

Microsoft's previous MP3 strategy was to rely on partners such as Creative Technology, SanDisk Corp., and iRiver America to break Apple's grip on the MP3 player market. "Microsoft has consistently delivered a message that competition in the marketplace would beat the iPod," Gartenberg said. But instead, he said, the iPod maker's power only grew.

"At the end of the day, partners have failed to deliver for Microsoft and Microsoft has felt the need to take its destiny into its own hands," Gartenberg said. Apple has parlayed the iPod popularity into sales for its Macintosh computer line, whose operating system has long been portrayed by devotees as a David standing against a global Goliath -- Microsoft's dominant Windows.

The Cupertino, California, company touted rising Macintosh laptop computer sales in a stellar quarterly earnings report this week. "The longer Microsoft waits, the more consumers start looking at Macintosh computers instead of Microsoft PCs," Gartenberg said. Analysts expected Zune's debut to be worse news for Microsoft's partners than for Apple.

The initial market for Zune will likely be people that would have bought other iPod competitors anyway, rather than "unhappy iPod users," Gartenberg predicted. Unofficial word that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft was gearing up to market a hand-held digital music and movie player in time for the Christmas shopping season set the Internet abuzz earlier this month.

The Microsoft device, dubbed "iPod killer" by the media, would do what the iPod can't: allow users to wirelessly download music, according to executives quoted. However, customers don't all value wireless connectivity because it gobbles battery power, costs more, and isn't an easy way to search for music, according to industry research.

"Just adding wireless into the device isn't going to be enough given Apple's reputation for style and attention to detail," Gartenberg said. Apple executives have anticipated the Microsoft would step into the ring with iPod, according to public statements from executives including company co-founder Steve Jobs.

Company executives this week said Apple isn't "sitting on our hands" and that there are iPod innovations in the pipeline. "There is no doubt Apple has expected this move for quite some time," Gartenberg said. "They have been prepared for this."

"This will be an interesting fall, that is for sure."

(Contributed by AFP)