What a week for devices! I’m worried that every week will be like this for the next few months as manufacturers fill the channels for Christmas. Keeping up will be impossible.
Microsoft officially unveiled the Zune media player. It has a slightly larger screen than the full-size iPods, but the controls look uninteresting and reportedly it’s larger and clumsier than the comparable iPod. Here’s more pictures and details. (One report said the brown one looks better in person than in the photos. It would have to, eh?)
Microsoft attempts to differentiate the Zune from an iPod by focusing on its built-in Wi-Fi connection. Microsoft invites you to imagine this sequence:
- You buy a song from the Microsoft version of the iTunes store and listen to it on your Zune. You like it. You want your friend to hear it.
- Your friend has a Zune.
- You beam it directly from your Zune to his Zune.
- Your friend can listen to it three times, just three times. If he tries to listen to it a fourth time, he’s arrested.
- Ha ha! Just kidding. But seriously, the song won’t play again after the third time. On the other hand, the next time your friend connects his Zune to his computer, a nag screen reminds him to buy a copy of the song for himself.
- You and your friend find this to be a wonderful experience and you contribute to a rising tide of positive word of mouth that sweeps the Zune into market leadership.
Call me a cynic but I see some chance that this process will fail at one of those steps. Personally, I find every step either unlikely or irritating. On the other hand, I find it appalling that people pay for ring tones – and they do – so maybe it will work like a charm.
Apple revamped its iPod line. There’s an impossibly small iPod shuffle – look at the picture! Prices are dropped on the iPod Nano and the case is spiffed up with rounded edges and colors – but better yet, capacity now goes up to 8Gb.
The full-size iPod got less attention at Apple’s press conference but it looks like a huge improvement over an already tremendous product. It’s such a compelling product that I can’t imagine the Zune competing for a moment. The price is dropped on the 30Gb model, there’s a new 80Gb model, but the best news is that battery life is extended and the screen clarity and brightness are significantly improved – and they were darned good to begin with.
There’s a facelift and some new features in a new version of iTunes, too, but that launch is not going smoothly – there’s early reports of serious bugs.
Meanwhile Nintendo announced the final details about the Wii, the game console that will be on the market in November. Some people believe the comparatively low-priced Wii will sell like hotcakes to people who are put off by the Sony Playstation 3 price tag. Sony is already struggling with an excruciating delay in getting the PS3 out the door and a lack of excitement in the gamer community, which is appalled by the PS3 prices and underwhelmed by the games and features. Now Sony has had to announce it’s having supply problems with the PS3 even at this late date; European sales will be delayed until next year and the supply channels in the rest of the world will get only half the projected units this year.
My head hurts.