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Jobs and the Zune

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February 14, 2007 – Comments (5)

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Think the Zune was a flop? Well, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) doesn't seem to be giving up on it. A recent blog entry -- trying to solicit insider leakers, of all things -- linked to the Microsoft job bank, where there are some three dozen positions open on the Zune team.

One thing that seems to be missing: ombudsman. As I've written several times, the Zune is a good device. (This despite my own experience with out-of-the-box, busted headphones and the now-infamous skipping problem -- which has yet to be fixed.)

But Zune has more important failings and only a slim feature advantage over Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) current iPods, like a richer UI and larger screen. These will be gone the minute the iPhone hits the market, and especially if, as I expect, the next generation iPods are iPhones minus the gabbing bits.

A ruthless ombudsman might have been able to shake Mr. Softy out of some of its dumber mistakes with the Zune, like the now-ridiculous-looking file-sharing scheme that, in my experience, can't share squat. Oh, and how is it that SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK) beat Microsoft to market with a real model of what wifi in a player can be used for: buying songs when in range of a wifi network? Probably because Mr. Softy had a hundred layers of bureaucracy in place and never got it done. Only recently have we begun to hear rumors of upcoming Zune "filling stations."

A hard-nosed consumer advocate might also have slapped the Zune engineers upside the head to get the Zune device and software to support a wider variety of video types -- say, the avi video files produced by every consumer camera out there -- rather than forcing users to convert everything to Windows Media format.

How about it, Mr. Softy? Got the guts to work with some real people on the Zune as you did with Vista? Give me a jingle. I know a 2-Zune family that would like to have a word with you.

Comments? Bring them here.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common and calls but had no position in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Fool rules are here.

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On February 14, 2007 at 11:16 AM, DTBoojum (52.59) wrote:

Hi Bent, nice article;

but how does this work: "At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common and calls but had no position in any company mentioned here."

Do you just mean 'no OTHER company mentioned here', or is this boilerplate and someone in-house doesn't know what 'common' is?

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#2) On February 14, 2007 at 11:31 AM, muji (51.48) wrote:

"and especially if, as I expect, the next generation iPods are iPhones minus the gabbing bits."

Seth --

I have no doubt that iPods will be "iPhones minus", as the evolution of the iPhone was the reverse. AAPL expanded the iPod by turning the screen sideways and integrating the wheel into a touchscreen interface (I heard rumors of this a year ago, dubbed the next-gen video iPod by the knowledgable person I talked to). I think they then had the idea of adding the wireless bits and making it into a phone for the initial release instead of first as an iPod -- probably for good [PR] reasons.

Possible direction: they keep the cellular wireless in the next-gen iPod vs adding wireless network like Zune -- and you can download from iTunes from anywhere with cell service vs needing a wireless broadband connection or "filling station". (Or can the iPhone already do that? I haven't seen all the specs.)

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#3) On February 14, 2007 at 12:06 PM, NotmsBob (< 20) wrote:

The Zune deserves the Microsoft treatment and got it.

The Microsoft monopoly does not have much impact where "nobody ever got fired for using Microsoft products" isn't part of the inbred culture.

Doesn't that remind you of another monopoly that finally was forced to compete by providing value to its customer ?

I'm an iPod user since Generation 1 and will be until something better comes along.

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#4) On February 14, 2007 at 12:34 PM, TMFBent (99.81) wrote:

"and you can download from iTunes from anywhere with cell service vs needing a wireless broadband connection or "filling station". (Or can the iPhone already do that? I haven't seen all the specs.)"

Not yet, from what I've seen. But it's as simple as building the DL service, popping the software into the phone via firmware upgrade, and hitting the "on" switch, I think.

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#5) On February 14, 2007 at 12:35 PM, TMFBent (99.81) wrote:

"but how does this work: "At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common and calls but had no position in any company mentioned here."

Do you just mean 'no OTHER company mentioned here', or is this boilerplate and someone in-house doesn't know what 'common' is?"

Boilerplate and I forgot to add the "other" and no one caught it at editing. I'll get it fixed.

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