aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The real iPod killer
Given my doubts about Zune, I thought it an opportune time to remember Alexander Dryer’s Apple Chomper piece in last month’s Slate:
For months, tech pundits have anticipated the Nov. 14 launch of the Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. While everyone loves an old-fashioned Microsoft-Apple battle, the me-too Zune is too little, too late. The coming digital-music battle won’t be for control of the current market, which is defined and dominated by Apple. No, the real war will happen over the cellular networks. That’s why Apple’s greatest threat isn’t Microsoft. It’s Nokia.
He likes the n91:
[T]he N91 looks like any other candy-bar-style handset, albeit with a bit of extra heft around the middle. The most visible difference is the group of playback controls-pause, rewind, etc.-that takes up the area beneath the screen. To make a phone call, you slide down these controls to reveal a standard keypad. The other big difference between the N91 and standard phones is on the inside, where Nokia has installed a 4-gigabyte hard drive in place of the typical low-capacity flash chip. [...]
I was surprised, then, to discover how much I enjoyed the N91. All the traditional phone functions work flawlessly, and calls sound as clear as they do on my landline. There’s even a bare-bones e-mail application and a surprisingly powerful browser. Most significantly, the music player integrates with all of this seamlessly. If you’re listening to a song when the phone rings, it will pause until you finish your conversation, then resume automatically. The playback controls work no matter what else you’re doing, so you can rewind in the middle of writing a text message. A dedicated key next to the play button also lets you flip back and forth between “phone mode” and “music-player mode.”
Because service providers subsidize phone prices, he expects the N91 to drop from its sky-high $599 down to the Nano’s $200. And in Nokia’s acquisition of Loudeye he sees the next generation mobile music ecosystem:
Nokia’s plan is to build such branded stores-accessible directly from its phones-for mobile providers. And when it comes to the accessories market, Nokia is copying Apple’s strategy exactly: The company just opened sleek new retail stores in Chicago and New York, with more on the way. Nokia even hired one of the architects responsible for the SoHo Apple Store to design its own New York offering.
Microsoft just can’t seem to get its mojo back. And I’m thinking Apple’s too intoxicated by its current success to see clearly forward. Maybe Nokia’s offering could knock off the iPod and become the next phenom.
This is the opening act?
Microsoft doesn’t expect the Zune to knock the iPod off the stage, but it is counting on the new music player to at least get the company on the playbill.
Microsoft’s $250 music player, which goes on sale Tuesday, is the first music player to come directly from the software maker, but it’s the latest in Redmond’s years-long effort to counter Apple’s dominance. After years of battling Apple Computer through an array of partners, Redmond is now taking on Cupertino directly.
“The whole goal behind launch was to build a foundation,” said Scott Erickson, a senior director of product management for Microsoft’s Zune effort. Erickson would not say how many devices the company expects to sell this holiday season, but said it has planned to produce enough models that those who want a Zune should be able to get their hands on one.
IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said Microsoft has created a nice-looking music player, but the first effort doesn’t take full advantage of the device’s built-in wireless connection or its large color screen.
“In the first generation, Zune is all dressed up with no place to go,” Kevorkian said. Among the key missing ingredients, she said, are the ability to buy songs on the go and to buy videos at all.
IE7: a gift to Firefox
Is Microsoft over or what? I’ve heard hardly anything about IE7, and ignored everything I’ve seen about Vista. Yawn. Their paradigm is way past, eclipsed by Google’s.
Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped points to Tony Ruscoe’s review of IE7. Tony’s disappointed - “I’ve only tried using it for a couple of hours now and there are some...things that are already annoying me.” His conclusion is noteworthy:
Ever since around 1999, my default browser has always been Internet Explorer. And before that, I think it was Netscape 4. I guess I just never got around to switching to Firefox. I didn’t really have a good reason to do so either. However, with IE7 being so different to IE6, I’m now being forced to make a change.
Did all good Microsoft developers leave to Google, or why does MS abandon product usability in so many instances (their Windows Media Player is another case)… and risk becoming their own worst enemy in the browser wars?