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Monday, July 10, 2006

10 Reasons Why the Microsoft Portable Music Player Will Fail

10) First the rumored features of WiFi, Community & Trading your AAC tracks for WMA tracks.

WiFi. The MusicGremlin that is out now is proving that it sounds like a feature you want but the reality is that, it’s not all much of anything. First, WiFi is not broadband. That’s why Apple can build it into your iPod right now but why – when a direct connection is hundreds times faster? Also WiFi coverage is spotty – presumably you have to stand in one spot until it downloads. Who here really wants that?
sides, how well is Rhapsody doing with ipod owners?

It also seems much more likely that a hacker will crack that open within hours so every mp3 track you own will appear to be a m4p track and by noon, MS will probably be on the hook for a billion tracks and they’ll have to shut it down.

But most of all, how many people trust MS will get it to work correctly. They cannot get PLAYS4SURE to work correctly on every machine when it’s plugged DIRECTLY in – how are they going to get WiFi working and sell you tracks while you walk around? It’s not.

Or look at their attempt at the feature set today with their WMP11 player – it will go and grab all your CD cover art. Surprise or no surprise, most reviewers note that it cannot find obscure artists like Bill Joel or U2.

9) MS has failed in EVERY consumer venture since 1998. From remotes to Barney (remember those? And fittingly, here's the 'patch') to home networking to watches to WebTV to online music stores - that launched in 1999 but that Apple managed to outsell in 6 months CUMULATIVELY three years later.

And the Xbox/360? When you spend $400 to sell every unit, how many more “successes” can you afford?

8) Information is already leaking like a sieve. Any enticing feature will be included in the Apple iPod updates coming out by this fall or holiday season.

7) It will antagonize MS’ many partners – they will fight tooth and nail to hold MS at bay. So far, there’s Creative, iRiver, Samsung, Sony, Philips, SanDisk and others fighting for 10% to 20% of the leftover market. These companies all have direct relationships and many other products to offer to consumer electronic retailers not just Xbox (hardly any profit), and now another mp3 player. And some of these companies will be fighting to stay alive.

If anything, it further confuses consumers – do I want MS & their music service? Do I want Napster & iRiver & Plays4Sure but not MS music service? Do I want Creative & MTV Urge or can I still use MS music service? Or is it just too much damn work – how about SIMPLIFY with ONE solution EVERYONE else seems to agree on – itunes & ipod. Because people want to listen to music! Not play DJ - not have to use GoogleSpreadsheet to figure what's a better deal.

People choose the ipod for many reasons but mostly for CONVENIENCE. There are cheaper players and players with more features (I think even MS fans would agree it’s not in their most remote possibility that MS will design a mp3 player that looks better than the ipod) but no one beats the ipod for convenience.

ONE CLICK buys, and/or loads, AND syncs: music, movies, music videoes, photos, album art, podcasts, and/or audiobooks …


Any bets the MS player will take more than one click just to turn on?

6) MS “marketing prowess” and ad dollars … stand back while the mighty gauntlet is thrown … er, yeah … it would be like Bill Gates as an ultimate fighter … MS spent $4 BILLION, yes BILLION dollars to try and take out AOL and LOST … if you can’t even defeat AOL – how can MS hope to beat back Apple, Sony, Samsung, Creative, iRiver & SanDisk?

In fact, they can’t even market you products based on their “fabled” OS – tablet PC’s, Media PC’s and that watch OS … all MAJOR launches that would sweep & revolutionize the industry. All TREMENDOUS flops. It’s the same marketing team – all ignored because when consumers have a choice, they seldom choose MS.

5) Their REAL REPUTATION. People tolerate their OS because they thought it was the only game in town … now, that it’s not and Bill Gates is leaving the company, what’s Microsoft again? When consumers have a choice, they seldom choose MS – certainly not since 1998. Because MS is the kludgy company with the not-quite working things with unattractive looking products. And of course, the requisite blue screen of death jokes.

4) They don’t really understand consumers. It’s a mixture of ignorance and arrogance … don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming Apple isn’t arrogant either but at least it’s the right arrogance for these times.* MS believes that by asking consumers what we want and because they’re so brilliant, we’ll buy it.

The problem is consumers say a lot of things they want but in reality, not really. We want low fat food, car pool lanes and flying cars but we don’t really want to eat low fat food more than once every two months; we don’t really want to drive around our neighborhoods picking up people or re-arranging our schedules; and we want a flying car that looks like a Ferrari/F-14, is under $15k.

The problem is MS’ culture is built on serving Enterprise & Gov’t Agencies who say exactly what they want, when they want it and how much they’ll pay. They are brilliant at selling to them. And that’s all fine and great.

They problem is that’s just not exciting enough for MS. They want our hearts, minds & wallets. They got a taste of it in the 1990’s with Win95 & 98 and ever since has been trying to get into our good graces but yet, the harder they try, the further they fall.

They just don’t understand when we say we want something, they “deliver” it – yet we don’t buy it (see next)

* Apple’ arrogance is different. Their aloofness is the allure. We don’t really care what you want. We will show you something … in good time. If you appreciate it – you understand. If you don’t, that’s your loss.

That is also why Apple can’t really sell to Enterprise, they just don’t care enough to beg like MS. Apple’s sales pitch is – here it is. If we release it, we think it’s great so why would we need to say much else?

3) In addition to the clueless arrogance, the other part of equation that brings MS down is their bureaucratic culture now. After the great success and cash flow of MS Office and Windows maintenance contracts, MS new mantra is continuous & PREDICTABLE revenue flow. They try and create every new division and product with that in mind. Again, what works fine in the corporate/enterprise/agency marketplace does NOT work in the consumer marketplace. Consumers loathe the monthly payment – it reminds of their utilities, credit cards and mortgage but to bureaucrats, what could be better than a PREDICATBLE & MONTHLY revenue stream? Hence MS attempt to take down AOL. 25 million people write a $25 check to AOL EVERY MONTH! (It’s now down to 18 million people a month using AOL). Or their attempts to get into the cable industry or the cell phone industry – we just want 10% of your take every month. That’s why they thought they had locked up the music & movie industries with their DRM & servers – just give us $.10 to $1.00 on every transaction … why were they were so hot on setting up Passport and a micro-payment system or why Bill Gates bought Corbis, the stock photo company – pay us X dollars to look or use this photo! (Remember he built those 10 plasma screen savers in his house? He presumed we would all do that and buy some package from Corbis every month).

This is the only reason they entered the video game marketplace. They saw that Sony made $5 to $10 on every PS2 disc sold and that online gaming meant $10 to $20 a month EVERY month. PREDICATABLE. The bureaucrats dream. Their new virus protection plan – again, sign up every year! Or why would MS spend millions designing an OS for a watch? All they saw was the PowerPoint presentation of $5 a month. No one stopped to say, why would anyone pay $5 a month for a weather report in tiny scrolling typeface when the same amount of time spent reading a watch face, you could simply look up for a BETTER weather report ALL AROUND YOU?

That’s the main difference with Apple. Your iPod works fine without ever using the iTunes Store … if fact, you can turn off the Store so it does not even show up … you think MS will offer that feature?

That’s why MS pushes subscription music – PREDICTABLE revenue stream … or what they want to do with this portable music player – add ads. Watch ads. Get free music. The problem is when you decide it has to be a predictable revenue stream first and then design the product around it – you’ve become a utility.

Microsoft is the only high-tech company that aspires to be a utility.

2) That’s one deadly DESIGN combination. Before you begin every venture, the bean counters want to know how you intend to generate revenues every month. Now design your product around that along with the 200 things consumers said they wanted – never mind what might be more or less important – just jam it all in there – the actual consumer is the furthest thing on our mind.

Perfect example. On the TREO, to use the speakerphone, there is a button SPEAKERPHONE. You press it. On the MS Q phone? Under the PROFILES MENU, go two deep and select SPEAKERPHONE. Which was designed by humans who actually use a phone and which was designed by a bureaucrat who just finished a stint at the DMV.

Microsoft – the DMV of technology.

1) It has already failed. Every other WMA player company is much nimbler (well, maybe not Sony :-) so already whatever MS produces will be heavier, bulkier, wonkier and dumber than products from Creative, iRiver, SanDisk, Samsung, etc … (the Xbox 360 is the work of hundreds of people after studying an ipod for 300 hours – bwahahaha).

It will have some annoying call-home-sign-in feature that only a bureaucrat could dream up … of course, they’ll tell you it’s to help you find new music but basically if you buy a Mariah track, there will be a 30-second ad pointing there might an obscure artist you’ve never heard of – Celine Dion. The WiFi will work sporatically, good luck getting a track replaced if the DL fails or they’ll charge you $19.99 a month for nationwide WiFi. MS will lose interest quickly as they start to lose the video game console fight to Sony & Nintendo and when/if they actually ship Vista in the middle of 2007 and/or when Google launches GoogleOffice for FREE on the internet.

They’ll all turn their eyes to Steve Ballmer to lead them out of the morass (the same guy who admits he missed what Yahoo, Google & Apple) were up to. The blame game will begin.

Meanwhile, Apple will probably announce an 8” ipod with a nano mini dock attachment to make it a nano mini mac …

MS should not let their player see the light of day – as a mythical beast, it will do much better – alighting far fetched rumors but if it were actually to step out into the sunlight. It will seal MS’ fate and announce to the world with trumpets that MS is truly a utility now.