Jan 21, 2007

iPod v/s Zune - wear the music v/s where's the music

No, those are not the official taglines to the Zune or the iPod campaign though for me, those lines summed up where the two brands stood and what they created for consumers - at a given point in time. The contrast could not be better timed.

The Zune and iPod shuffle were launched approximately 10 days from each other. The 'generation gap' between the products was apparent yet comparing the brands was a foregone conclusion.

While the iPod comes out...
The iPod has long enjoyed an iconic status. The white ear phones have over time became ubiquitous. A tell-tale sign of the popularity of the device and the brand. I read about kids (less fortunate than the ones who could afford an iPod) who'd paint their black ear phones white, to feel like a part of the cult of the cool. Then there was someone who just bought a pair of white earphones from eBay without ever owning an iPod. Its not difficult to guess why. It is no longer a device sported by music aficionados. It has acquired the status of a fashion accessory that people feel they must have. The conspicuous presence only fuels its popularity and sales further.

The iPod shuffle takes the whole idea of the iPod being a fashion accessory to the next level. While earlier generation iPods stayed ensconced within pockets and let the ear phones do the talking, the new generation shuffle is smugly perched outside.



The Zune goes in...
Contrast this with the close to 5 ounce Zune know for its bulk amongst other things. Its no surprise that the Zune would have stay content indoors (inside bags and pockets) for a while.
Visibility signals popularity and to that extent Zune takes a beating on account of its bulk. However the story does not end there. It only just begins. Since related to the issue of visibility is a feature that is touted as the product's raisons d'ĂȘtre - the wifi capability which makes the 'social' happen so to say. Now the problem is that though Zune did welcome people to the social, it expected consumers to create a social by themselves. Early adopters have been looking high and low for fellow Zuners to experience music transfer through wifi , though only very few have been lucky. Why? A combination of factors - visibility being one of them.

Its not difficult to imagine, that if people are on the go, it is highly likely that that even if they were carrying their Zunes with them the device in its current avataar is not conducive to being sported outside. I suppose the ear phones are not distinguishable either. With the lack of visibility the probability of tracing a zune user to wifi with becomes slim. Overlay this situation with the fact that keeping the wifi turned on all the time is a tremendous drain on battery - and what have you. Far fewer Zunes that are wifi enabled and a bunch of early adopters not getting enough chances to test the single most differentiating feature of the product. The subliminal message that consumers get as a result is that the product has not really take off in the market since they can't find people with it.

Notwithstanding the contrasts, what is common to both these brands is how - in both cases visibility has become a surrogate measure for popularity which in turn will influence sales - only consolidating the positions further.


iPod Shuffle,iPod v/s Zune,Zune,

7 comments:

Laurence said...

Hey Reshma,

Fantastic post! Apple are very clever with at all stages of their marketing and product development.

The Zune case study somehow reminds me of mini-disks, which I thought were a fantastic idea at the time, yet failed. With technology evolving at such a fast pace, it has become hard to predict what will or won't work

witnwisdumb said...

Well, I haven't actually checked out a Zune physically, but of the pictures I've seen online, I agree it doesn't look as slick.

But... I just. Dont. Like. Ipods. Call me prejudiced, but I feel that they are exorbitantly priced, especially when compared to personal audio devices available from other brands, and the features they offer. And moreover, I really don't go for the use-and-throw culture - atleast, not for electronics. What sort of a company comes up with a music where once the battery runs out, it's in the garbage bin?

Personally, if decided to spend that much money for a music player, I'd buy a Sony.

witnwisdumb said...

Oops. So many typos.

*...with a music player where...

*... if I decided to...

Vi said...

Though I really agree with Witnwisdumb's comment, I have an iPod (a mini and a shuffle) of my own because it's very convenient...but yes, if this ever breaks down (and I know it will) I definitely won't be going back to the iPod.

Reshma Anand said...

laurence - yes technology is evolving at break neck speed and its exciting to live in this day and age when it is difficult to predict how we would engage with tech even in the next one year. all the more reason for a tech brand to make the 'emotional connect' to outlast the changes and - Apple seems to be doing that - just right!

Witnwisdumb, Vi - I agree with your point of view on longevity of products. Though somewhere it reflects the pattern of consumption - these days people own multiple devices. The breaking down of a device is not a necessary trigger. Of course the other side to the story is marketers trying to induce new purchase. Your point brought to mind the brand Swatch - their products are cool though all the watches are moulded and cannot be opened / repaired - so if it stops working - junk it. Swatch again (like the iPod) is not just a watch - its an accessory. And perhaps the rules of the game are different in the world of lifestyle products

Dinesh said...

Good one ! Zune should have been made as just a music player that is cool and probably they should have gotten this feature in 2nd gen, after capturing a little bit market. Zune looks like half baked and rushed. Zune was late and there was not point in rushing, as they were late anyway.

@Witnwisdumb - You can get your battery replaced on your old ipod for $59. This is better than having to pack your music player with an alkaline battery that would last for 30 hours.

Alliek said...

Zune is good but it is not as the match of the IPOD. The Ipod videos quality is lot better and thy are also better in the sound quality.