Ah, but the Zune could beat the iPod if it had a chain saw!

SvenOnTech – “The technology resource you can’t resist!” – proves rather resistable today as he Sven Rafferty [the Macalope originally missed the byline and attributed the piece to "Sven" - it's been corrected throughout] [UPDATE AGAIN - Jon Eilers writes to note that the piece on SvenOnTech was misattributed to him. It was actually written by Sven Rafferty.] takes the “Zune spells ‘doom'” argument for a spin and goes careening off Reality Bluff and into Fantasy Lake.

With Apple’s slipping sales for months in a row…

You mean the months leading up to a widely-expected refresh?  Those months?

First Vic Keegan wants to compare successive quarters, now Rafferty wants to look at successive months. [UPDATE: for those who don't want to click through the link, the important point is that a serious analysis would have looked at changes year over year to avoid cyclicality predominately based on the iPod's product cycle. Also, Rafferty' comment is not supported with any data - we are left to wonder how many months he's talking about.]

MacNN noted that Piper Jaffrey predicted Apple would come close to 8.6 million in iPod sales for the third calendar quarter, which would be a 33.3 percent increase year over year and a small increase in sales growth from the second quarter.

The Macalope will say it again.  iPod sales growth may have been slowing.  But iPod sales are not “slipping.”  They continue to grow.

…with the iPod and the how-hum [sic] refresh we witnessed at the Showtime event, Steve Jobs best be working on getting that full-screen iPod ready for Macworld or he can start kissing his bread winner goodbye.

The bar is set really high for Apple.  If it doesn’t provide a $50 touch-screen iPod with seven days of battery life and free movies, an event is ho-hum.

Point of fact, the event was apparently exactly what investors were expecting, as Apple’s share price saw a modest uptick since Sept. 12th (today showed a substantial jump largely driven by expected increases in the Mac’s market share).

But enter the Zune.

Removing any Microsoft bias, the Zune isn’t that bad.

The Macalope can picture the marketing materials now:  “The Microsoft Zune.  It’s not that bad!”

Rafferty then goes on to list all that’s right with the Zune without listing any of the numerous questions about it.  For, you see, a point has already been chosen and, to support it, the Zune must be rubber and the iPod glue.

The Wi-Fi sharing is great, too, and even though there’s no video support, that will be here soon like a more robust Windows was with 3.11 back in the early 90s.

Yes, Microsoft is slow out of the gate but, remember, it lumbers ever forward!  Apple, apparently, will never update the iPod ever again.

The remarkable assery of this piece is that Rafferty is not even taking the bad data points for the iPod (and you really have to try to find them!) and comparing them to the good ones for the Zune.

He’s taking the current features of the iPod and comparing them to imaginary future features of the Zune – a product you can’t even buy yet.  That’s vapor^2!

Where’s the full-screen Steve? The Wi-Fi? The Bluetooth? The meat?!

Where’s the neural interface?  The time warp feature so you can enjoy tomorrow’s music today?  Where’s the hoozifluffer with the wingjambiddler?!

If the iPod doesn’t bring on a new cool factor (and regurgatating the iPod mini via the nano doesn’t qualify,)…

And the Macalope guesses offering the first wearable digital music player ever and the ability to buy and play movies on an iPod – today! – don’t count either.

…then Apple can once again remember the days of the Macintosh Performa and try to figure out, “How did we lose all the market share…again?”

Wow.  Did the Mac really have 75 percent market share before the Performa came out?  The Macalope sure remembers those days differently.

Frankly, the Macalope prefers such articles the way John Dvorak writes them.  At least Dvorak goes out on a limb and tries to convince you the Zune has already won the battle.  Rafferty would have you believe the iPod’s vast lead is in dire jeopardy because future Zunes will be better than this one, which “isn’t that bad.”  And isn’t out yet.

The worst you can say for the iPod and the best you can say for the Zune right now is that Microsoft has announced a modest offering that they may decide to take a loss on in an attempt to gain market share.  To pretend that only Microsoft can leapfrog features is to ignore reality (Apple and Microsoft also have this whole operating system thing going on if you haven’t noticed) for the sake of tritely playing devil’s advocate.

The Macalope would advise Rafferty to save the “Apple, are you listening?” tone at least until Microsoft actually ship a Zune.

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  • [...] that bad!” (tags: microsoft zune ipod myths)   Email this post | Print this post | Ping this post | Add to del.icio.us | Subscribe to posts Search [...]

  • [...] Take a look at Vic Keegan, Sven Rafferty, Kieran McCarthy and Mike Elgan. You’re supposed to parlay the fantastic but ultimately unsustainable success the iPod has had into some kind of failure – don’t forget to call falling sales growth “slipping sales”! – and breathlessly list imaginary features the Zune may one day have and ask why the iPod doesn’t have those today. It’s impossible to know if Apple can sustain its remarkably high market shares in the face of new competition, but it is going into the battle with better products at better prices. [...]

Comments
  • Jared:

    iPod fans seem to go out of their way to bash the Zune – Why? In my opinion Apple fanboys should be happy that the Zune is entering the market – it is healthy competition for Apple and will force both Apple and MS to innovate to keep ahead.

    The Zune does offer some interesting new features – Wifi in particular. Now Wifi would not work with an iPod at the moment because they seem to focus on Movies and TV shows (big downloads), but MS has said they are targeting the social aspects of video – ie; Youtube/Google Video types that are good for a laugh and sharing with your mates. Wireless networking is therefore an important aspect to the Zunes target market.

    My point is is that Zune to me seems like a good competitor, and bashing it before it has even been released is just small. Embrace competition and give everyone a fair go. IF MS crash and burn then jump for joy, but if they dont you will be eating your words.

  • But the Macalope’s not bashing the Zune. He thinks it’s a decent, but not earth-shattering, offering.

    What the Macalope has a problem with is comparing future products from Microsoft to present products from Apple and then deciding that Apple’s in trouble.

  • Mart:

    I just think the Zune is funny… come on… BROWN!

  • But I suppose the rampant BS-ery about how WM is open and non-proprietary and everyone who uses it sings Kumbaya and has great sex, whereas iTunes is totally closed, and all it’s users sit alone in the dark wishing they could have sex at all, that came out of Microsoft, that WASN’T small. Nope.

  • Heh, the Zune ain’t “healthy competition.”
    It has nothing that is really more useful than iPod.
    And it does not need to be ‘released” for us to know
    what a piece of shi*tt it is, as its features are already
    released; only price is an unknown.
    It will be the worst player and will tank to a degree
    that will shock any and all deluded MS loser Zune boosters.

  • Nando:

    I find it ironic that the same web media outlets that bashed Apple for not licensing their Fairplay DRM to other vendors seem to ignore the fact that Microsoft is doing with the same with the Zune. Most media stories only lightly touch on that or at all. Worse yet from all indications the Zune will not be compatible with PlayforSure tracks. PlayforSure right.

    Slightly off topic but, it is the same media that hypes EVERY new mp3 player as an “iPod killer” as if they can’t stand the fact that Apple has a leadership position in a market segment and it must be “killed”. Every new OS (BeOS, NextStep, OS X) was never been hyped as a Windows killer even though Windows has a monopoly in their segment.

    I hope that the Zune turns out to be a strong product to keep Apple on their toes and continue to innovate in the mp3 space.

  • Edge:

    ‘wingjambiddler’ is not a word.

    You’re such an idiot. Gosh.

  • ChrispyMac:

    “offering the first wearable digital music player ever…”
    For some reason, I can’t watch “Pirates of the Caribbean” on my new iPod Shuffle! How lame is that?

  • Billy K:

    The Macalope is an entertaining and whimsicle (that’s whimisical and popsicle combined) creature. But I am still confused. Is The Macalope half Mac, half Man-talope; or is the Macalope half Antalope, half Man-mac.

    Please clarify at your earliest convenience.

  • Jed:

    Re: ‘wingjambiddler’ not being a word.

    Hey EDGE, put your guitar down for a minute and get with the program.

    I had a huge great pair of low hanging wingjambiddlers installed just recently and, if nothing else, they scare the Macalopes rigid when I wave them around in public…

    As for my hoozifluffer, I guess we’re in semi-polite company here so I won’t go into too much detail but ooh I love my hoozifluffer…

    [ps, BilllyK. It's probably not my place but legend has it that enquiring too closely about the origins of the Macalope makes your hoozifluffer shrivel so be careful now]

  • Garth:

    But I want my hoozifluffers with the wingjambiddlers NOW!

  • With apologies, of course, to Roald Dahl.

    And probably Dr. Seuss.

  • And, actually, the Macalope’s heritage could be more complicated than that. Both his parents could also have been Macalopes. And you’re forgetting the potential for genetic mutation.

  • Billy K:

    Well, sounds like The Macalope’s Mac heritage could well be less than 1/8th Mac. That knowledge doesn’t help in the credibility department, bub.

  • Are you crazy? Look at the Macalope’s head up there at the top of the page!

  • Nick:

    Sorry, but Apple has not released the first wearable MP3 player. I recall a friend having an MP3-playing watch over 4 years ago. What does “wearable” mean in this context anyway? The new shuffle is no more wearable than any player that has shipped with a clip before. (which isn’t to say it isn’t impressive in its own way).

  • Fair enough. But the Macalope expects they’ll sell a few more than those watch MP3 players.

    The Macalope’s meaning was the first you could clip on your shirt without it getting dragged down so far people would be forced to look at your third, superfluous nipple. The Macalope’s not saying you have a third, superfluous nipple, he’s just using that as an example.

    If you prefer, it’s the most wearable digital music player.

    And belt clips don’t really count.

  • James:

    To Jared and all others who are sick of people who “seem to go out of their way to bash the Zune”: if tech pundits didn’t seem to go out of their way to crown every single new MP3 player as an “iPod killer”, then perhaps the reaction would seem over the top. But those self-same tech pundits don’t seem to have an ounce of understanding as to what makes the iPod the best MP3 player out there — or what it will take to beat it. To me, this calls into question why they are tech pundits in the first place.

    Here are the two biggest reasons why I enjoy my iPod and will continue to buy iPods over any alternative:

    1) With the iPod, the interface is such that while driving, I can find the song I want from a list of about three hundred in about fifteen seconds — without taking my eyes off the road.

    2) The iPod has a strong market of third party peripherals, making it easy to find the exact case I want, a car adapter, a speaker system, or whatnot.

    There are also lots of little things that maybe some MP3 players match or exceed the iPod with — display quality, battery life, price, etc. But as far as I know, nothing even comes close to matching the above two factors in any other MP3 player.

    Anyone who claims that an MP3 player is an “iPod killer” because it has some obscure feature (e.g., WiFi) while ignoring the above two factors — while relate to the usability of the product — are just blowing hot air. And that seems to be most pundits.

    I’d love it if the Zune pushed the iPod to new heights. But this ain’t it.

  • Dhrakar:

    Personally, I think that most pundits talk about iPod killers so often because they still can’t wrap their heads around the idea that there can be more than 1 entry in any market. I think that many of them have still not quite gotten over the fact that Apple did not roll over and die when they predicted it would. Thus, they keep hoping that someone will ‘kill’ the iPod so that they can go back and say ‘I TOLD YOU that Apple was doomed!’

    And while I’m ranting anyway, why is it that so many pundits complain about lock-in for the iPod and they say absolutely nothing about the Windows lock-in? I mean come on here, we have a convicted monopoly who is _still_ trying to own all the computing device marbles and they think that that is ok? Sheesh.

  • Edge:

    Where, oh where, would the Macalope wear his wearable iPod shuffle?

    I’m getting my hoozifluffers in a twist just thinking about it. And as for your wingjambiddlers, the day I see JED walking down the street with his low-hanging wingfjambiddlers (is there an ‘f’ in there somewhere, I’m having trouble making it out…) I’ll take out my hoozifluffers and eat them. There and then. No questions asked. I’ll even offer up a brand spanking new MacBook as a bounty.

    (BTW, this will have to occur in any state other than Alaska, where not only is it illegal to get out your hoozifluffers in public, they would more than likely freeze instantly during winter. And Alsakans have a peculiar hatred for the tourists who are there for the sole purpose of proving the existence of wingfjambhiddlers.)

    So stick that in your fnurfingabler and smoke it. (At this point if this were real life, I’d harrumph, make a clever noise on my guitar, turn on my heels and stride away sharpish.)

    ZUNE RULEZ!!1!!1!1!01101101011

  • pr9000:

    “If it doesn’t provide a $50 touch-screen iPod with seven days of battery life and free movies, an event is ho-hum.”

    uh, excuse me professor brainiac, but it’s how-hum, not ho-hum.

  • “The remarkable assery of this piece”

    Assery is my new word for the day. I gotta find a way to work it into a conversation.

  • The Macalope had drafted this line but struck it before posting:

    “How hum was it? Very hum.”

  • > “Apple fanboys should be happy that the Zune is entering the market – it is healthy competition for Apple”

    But it’s not. If it did stuff better than the iPod, it would be, and I’d be delighted as you suggest. But it doesn’t.

    > “The Zune does offer some interesting new features – Wifi in particular.”

    Oh yeah. Beam songs to other people, they’ll be able to play them three whole times! Wowza!

    > “Wifi would not work with an iPod at the moment because they seem to focus on Movies and TV shows”

    No, the iTunes store focuses on movies and TV shows. You can put any video you want on your iPod if it’s in the right format. Wifi wouldn’t work with the iPod because it would only offer wireless syncing, at the expense of (I would guess) battery life, weight and cost. You wouldn’t be able to share music wirelessly in any useful way, because the record companies would demand dumb restrictions like those the Zune has, and even if you could, it’d wear down your battery, for no benefit other than letting other people hear your music. Which you can already do with speakers, and then you get to hear the music yourself too.

    Only geeks think added technology (like Wifi) is a “feature”. For most people (i.e. the majority of the tens of millions of people who have bought iPods and made it the world-beating success it is), a feature is something they find useful. iPods, even after 5 years, really only have one feature: 1,000 songs, in your pocket. They’ve just implemented the feature better than anyone else, and tied that in to a brand experience.

  • Jared:

    I think my fanboy rants unfortunately got taken as though I was ridiculing the iPod. Quite the opposite, I am currently happy with my 60GB iPod and wont be changing anytime soon.

    I have to agree with James and Dhrakar – it is the tech pundits who cant seem to grasp that maybe more than one product can compete in the same market. However, network effects will make it difficult for MS.

    Pauldwaite – i think that Apple has done such a good job with the iPod that we are no longer going to see revolutionary changes in the mp3 player market – instead they will be evolutionary. You can criticize Wifi and FM radio as “features” that only appeal to 0.1% of the market because you are probably right. But the point is is that these incremental improvements are still improvements – having wifi, radio and a larger screen are still better than not having them (even if you dont use the wifi), especially considering MS has done them without adding an exorbitant cost on top.

    After seeing the recent song pricing announcements from MS, I now have to say that they are definitely behind the 8-ball, but even still, I believe MS is stubborn enough and wealthy enough to stick around long enough in the market (despite making losses) to force Apples hand in some areas. Hopefully. Maybe.

  • Gabriel:

    I completely agree that the iPod needs competition. After all, Apple took away the dock, and the outlet plug because they have no competition. The problem though, is that the Zune doesn’t seem to be delivery the competition. I personally feel that the Zune is going to be the next ‘New Coke’. If Microsoft boldly says it is developing a product to compete with the iPod, the product needs to be far better than the iPod (or cheaper), not ok. The Zune is bigger, not as pretty, and I can just tell by looking at the buttons at the bottom of the device, that it will be harder to navigate.

    Lets go over what Microsoft thinks, is it’s competitive advantage:

    * Wifi – (What’s the point, so I can share songs with someone for 3 days? I’d rather not)

    *FM transmitter – (Great lets pay $250 for a radio, what year are we living in? If it could be satellite radio friendly, that would be another thing, FM is a thing of the past)

    *Bigger Screen /Landscape or Portrait – Well this is the only feature that is better than the iPod so far. Which is great, iPod needs competition so the next iPod screen will be bigger

    *Diarrhea Brown colour available (enough said)

    I’m not against iPod competition, I just don’t think we’re going to see it with the Zune.

  • tom:

    Zune offers unlimited music downloads via subscription for $15 per month and you get to keep 10 songs per month included in the price. This makes the social aspect more viable because when someone beams you a song, you get the rights via subscription. If you like that song and want outright own it, you can own it as one of your 10 songs/month *included* in the subscription fee.

    This is why i have zune instead of ipod. i’ve tried rhapsody, napster as well, but combination of zune and zune service for those wanting subscription service (and after you take away the 10 songs — you are really talking about $5/month) to me has been a bettter experience.

    This is they type of competition that may make itunes go that way — so i think it’s true that the apple fan club should like having someone around to push the competition.

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