We all remember the Zune. Microsoft’s failed attempt at an iPod competitor gained about as much traction as Windows Phone 7 has during the last two years. Apple already had its hands around the music industry’s neck with the iPod and iTunes — there was no room for something like the Zune. It wasn’t that the Zune was a bad product, it was just too late to the game.
Former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach was in charge of the Zune division, and in a recent interview he acknowledges that Microsoft made a mistake releasing the Zune in the first place.
In an interview with Wired’s GeekWire:
“If I had hindsight, 20-20, and could do Zune over again, we would skip portable media players completely. We would go to what, at the time, was the Windows Mobile team and say we’re going to produce the coolest music service for your phones ever. The portable music market is gone and it was already leaving when we started. We just weren’t brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple with a product that actually wasn’t a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.”
Microsoft made Zune owners download and use the Zune software to sync music on a computer. If you bought into the Zune, you totally removed yourself from the iTunes ecosystem. That turned out to be a bad move on Microsoft’s part, you know, since iTunes is the largest music retailer in the world.
“It’s not like we didn’t try but — I don’t know how to say this politely — the music industry just didn’t get it. They just didn’t figure out that being dependent on Apple was bad for them. And they were so hooked on the drug of what Apple was supplying them that they couldn’t see past that to realize that they needed something else to actually drive their business. The label business, the music industry, has never recovered from that.
“If you look at business value, Apple took whatever business value was in the label business and erased it. That’s not a complaint about Apple, good for them. But they erased that, and created some new value for themselves.”
Read the full interview with Back for more on what he learned working on the Xbox and Zune.