>iPod Versus Zune and Enterprise Architecture

>Zune has been playing catch up with iPod in the music player business, but from an User-centric enterprise architecture standpoint, they’ve got it all wrong!

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 14 November 2007 reports that Microsoft has retooled the Zune so that it “marks a vast improvement; however, it’s still no iPod.”

Where is Microsoft going wrong?

  1. An inferior product—“last year when Microsoft Corp. introduced its Zune music player to take on Apple’s iPod juggernaut, the software giant struck out. While the Zune had a good user interface, it was bigger and boxier, with clumsier controls, weaker battery life, and more complex software. Its companion online music store has a much smaller catalogue, a more complicated purchase process, and no videos for sale. And the Zune’s most innovative feature, built-in Wi-Fi networking, was nearly useless.” So much for competing on product quality!
  2. Underestimating the competition—Microsoft is “back with a second improved round of Zune’s…Apple hasn’t been standing still…the 80-gigabyte Classic, which costs the same as 80-gigabyte Zune, is slimmer than the Zune and has a flashy new interface, if a smaller screen. And the eight-gigabyte nano, which costs the same as the eight-gigabyte Zunem now plays videos and is much smaller—yet it has a larger screen. In addition, Apple has spiffed up its iTunes software…and Apple still trounces Microsoft in the selection of media it sells…more than six million songs, about double what the Zune marketplace offers, and dwarfs Microsoft’s selection of Podcasts and music videos as well.”

The WSJ concludes, “Microsoft has greatly improved the Zune hardware and software this time. But it seems to be competing with Apple’s last efforts, not its newest ones.”

In spite of these explanations, I think we’re missing something else here. If you compare the Microsoft desktop software to Apple’s, Microsoft also has a worse product, yet is the hands-down market leader. So why is Microsoft struggling with Zune?

Maybe functionality is part of the equation, but not the whole thing. It’s interesting to me that neither the article nor advertisements I see for Zune address anything about the interoperability of the product with Apple’s iTunes. Interoperability is not only a major enterprise architecture issue, but from a consumer standpoint, do you really expect people to dump their investment in their iTunes music library when they buy a Zune?

Looking at Yahoo Answers online, I see consumers share this concern:

“Can you use the iTunes’ software with the Microsoft Zune? I am torn between which to buy, if you can use itunes with the Zune then that’s the one I’ll get, but if you can’t then I’m getting an iPod, help me decide please.”

“Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

No you cannot. iTunes only works with the iPod, Zune is a completly different player made by Microsoft, it has its own music program and marketplace called the Zune Marketplace. The Zune Software can automatically copy songs that have not been purchased from iTunes (because ones that are have copy protection on them) and put them in the Zune Program.”

Until Microsoft acts as the architects par excellence that they are, and work out the all-important EA interoperability issues of its product, and communicates this with its customers, the Zune will continue to be second-rate, functionality notwithstanding.