Slug: microsofts-media-triumvirate Date: 2006-12-05 Title: Microsoft’s Media Triumvirate layout: post
With Microsoft's release of the Zune, the Mac internet is going nuts explaining why the Zune is a broken, inferior product to Apple's iPod. And at first glance I have to agree with them. But my cynicism is tingling, and I don't think that Microsoft intended the Zune to start out as a viable iPod competitor. Instead, the Zune is part of a strategic triumvirate intended to make the iPod irrelevant on Windows. This strategy is composed of Windows, the XBox, the Zune, and, playing the part of the One Ring: XBox Live Marketplace.
(Note: I seem to suffer from a pathological need to do a depth-first traversal of any idea, which usually means I'm down in the weeds around the time I lose interest in writing on a topic, so I never publish. Instead, I'm going to try and skim this idea as fast as possible, and I'll revisit it later if more needs saying.)
Posit: Microsoft is a platform company. No product needs to be perfect on day one if it has the support of a powerful platform for which it is the only solution. It takes an ecosystem. (see Internet Explorer.)
Posit: Microsoft thinks ahead. Far ahead. They see that the iPod has brand caché, but the thing that makes that brand succeed is the media platform: the iTunes Store runnig on Windows, most importantly. So they need that media/commerce platform.
Posit: The XBox (in original and shiny 360 flavors) has established itself as a dominant player in the console market. If you look at consoles these days, they are not the game machines of our fathers. They are powerful, specialized (and getting less-so) PCs. The XBox 360 is Microsoft's Media PC, one where it owns hardware and software.
Posit: Xbox Live set the standard for console gaming online. Sony has it's own version for the PS3, and I'm pretty sure Nintendo has something like it for the Wii. Microsoft recently launched the XBox 360 Live Marketplace, where gamers can purchase not only games, but movies and TV shows as well that can be viewed on the user's television.
Posit: Soon Microsoft will be launching Live Anywhere which brings that marketplace to Windows Vista and Windows Mobile.
To sum up: Microsoft is building a network of devices that connect to (read: eventually will require) some version of XBox Live Marketplace for sharing (read: purchasing) content. The Zune's wireless support will grow the ability to wirelessly connect to this marketplace, Windows will be connected, and the XBox (the new Media PC) is connected.
Microsoft's goal is to OWN their customers' media experience (and media $$$), and if the iPod on Windows is an early casualty of that battle, then no one in Redmond will be weeping.