Why Zune failed?

Microsoft is probably one of the few companies which can not just get away with couple of bad products like Vista, they also can manage to get a stellar and solid product like Zune to never take off.

When Zune launched, people were quite excited about the whole prospect of music being social. Other than Zune, I haven’t heard any product/service talk of taking music to social experience. They came up with the whole idea of sharing 3 tracks per day from Zune to a Zune device, a social graph for music etc. The focus was too much on hardware sales and promotion than execution on social front. They tried to differentiate from Apple iTunes/iPod but didn’t work enough on execution of that differentiation. Having said that Zune as a software experience is solid.

When I look at Spotify now, it just blows my mind off, as to how well it is executed. They have the social graph of Facebook, solid web to client experience. Their ability to extend it to a Platform. On an other note isn’t it very interesting, an application that heavily relies Facebook’s platform itself is positioning itself to become a platform.

In fact there was nothing that stopped Zune from becoming another Spotify, other than Microsoft. Microsoft should have done well considering how well connected they were to Facebook.

Microsoft is weak on the web, weak when it comes to networks (of course XBox Live is an exception). When you try to build a product which was meant to be social on a weak online identity system like Live ID, it is but for obvious that the product will never gather steam. A machine with rusted part can never achieve its full potential.

In fact they have made a royal mess out of Zune now. So what exactly is Zune now?

1. Zune is a device: Not any more, they have stopped making these devices.
2. Zune is an app: It really is an app, its free on Windows Phone 7 and Windows but needs a XBox Live Gold (paid subscription) just to access the app.
3. Zune is a streaming service: This is a subscription based service. But if one wants this experience on XBox 360, you need to pay double subscription, one for Xbox Live Gold and the other for Zune pass.

MS should not have have used Zune software for Windows Phone 7 at first place. Just because Apple used iTunes for Phones, doesn’t mean that MS should also use Zune for Windows Phone 7. Apple has a successful product in iTunes and it makes sense for them to build on that. But in comparison Zune is no match for iTunes in any way to leverage it for another platform like Windows Phone 7.

We have Zune, but we also have Windows Media Player for Windows but is unavailable in Windows Phone or Xbox. And not to forget we also have Windows Media Centre which over laps with some of the functions of Zune and Media Player, WMC is available on PC and XBox, but not on Windows Phone.

Microsoft needs keep 3 things in mind while designing and building future products

1. Stop building products on systems which are weak
2. Avoid duplication of products which have similar function
3. When in need, start from scratch while scrapping or streamlining old products.

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