|Tuesday, November 14, 2006
17:01 - Zuneland Fun Bucks
This along with a bunch of other Zune links via Daring Fireball. Engadget's screenshot-heavy installation walkthrough is definitely the most visual, though (well, aside from the hilarious CNN footage).
The comments are great:
Bill and team, all you had to do was copy apple. At least people could say it worked. You'd do much better with a product that worked, even if you ripped off-borrowed some ideas.
And this—and this—is what they did instead. Unbelievable.
You could almost do an authoritative document of "How Microsoft Fails to Get It" just from the Zune installer alone. Look at some of the names they suggest for you to use as your "Zune tag": "PricyRacketeer"? "GutlessStudent"? Gee, sign me the hell up. Can you even imagine Apple doing something like that? Can you even picture such a thing as artlessly computer-generated suggestions for gamer names appearing in their interface? It just defies the imagination. And yet apparently it's only a mild eyebrow-raiser in the Microsoft dimension.
But what really makes me slump and shake my shoulders in sympathetic heaves of silent laughter is the "point" system. As another DF post quotes James R. Stoup:
Of course, you could just spend all of your points each time you buy music, but would require you to purchase songs in multiples of 31,600 points (that being the LCM of 79 and 400). That works out to 400 songs for $395. A better plan would be to buy 5 songs for 395 points (or $4.94) and just save your 5 remaining points for some future purchase. In effect, Microsoft has created a store that only accepts gift cards as the valid method of payments. And if you don’t think that’s insane then you obviously already have pre-ordered your Zune.
Yeah, Or you could, you know, go to iTunes and buy music with dollars. Does Microsoft think people will be approaching the Zune "social" like a video arcade? The token system only makes sense if you don't trust your customers to spend their money within your store, and/or you want so badly to harvest the profit from their unused balances that you'll build your whole system around the gym-membership model of collecting fees on customers' laziness. Gift certificates are one thing, but using it as the primary method for buying your own music? Gimme a break.
What amazes me, though, is that people will still put up with this—and will trash Apple for much slighter transgressions upon one's consumer liberties. You'll have people sneering at the lemming-like iPod users' white earbuds and Mac OS X's candy-colored window controls, who will then turn around and happily name themselves "HangingCheetah" or "ScapularWorm" on Microsoft's say-so. Apple can fight the record labels for flat pricing and increased mobility under the download-to-own DRM scheme that created the digital music explosion after many false starts and before a lot of others, and people will still chafe and whine about the New Evil Monopoly, apparently just itching for the chance to go tapping on shoulders in Starbucks to trade songs with other Zune users, which they can then buy with their company scrip. Boy, what a deal.
Now, that's not to say that I think there are that many people out there who think Microsoft can do no wrong, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It's just that if even 1% of their users do, that's a hell of a lot more Microsoft fanboys than even the most generous estimates of the Apple zealot population. We've enjoyed a Golden Age for the past five years, when the company in charge of defining the vocabulary of hip pop culture has actually been one of the ones that actually is capable of making a meaningful and deftly executed conribution to the world, without insulting the people who comprise that culture or treating them like cattle shuffling through the profit gate. Now there's a new bully on the block, with its new and far clumsier dialect—and just by sheer dint of mass it'll change the tilt of the playing field. We may be seeing the beginning of the end no matter how badly the Zune manages to suck in its initial outing, because whether it's a hit or a flop, people are suddenly going to be reminded again that Apple isn't the "default" choice: they're Apple, the guys you don't want to be seen with in polite company.
Then again, the next iPod announcements might be so much further along the track that we'll all have to thank Microsoft for providing some much-needed competitive pressure. Which is probably a lot more likely.
Thanks for playing, Microsoft. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to you. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.