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November 13, 2006

Here comes the Zune

Posted by David Hunter at 11:24 AM ET.

Tomorrow is launch day for Microsoft’s Zune “iPod killer” personal media player and predictably the PR buzz is building with a variety of old media ads and some “secret shows” today in cities across the nation:

Zune has just announced 6 FREE secret launch party shows across the country in six different markets (NY, LA, Seattle, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta). Performances include high level acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Red Hot Chili Peppers, T.I. Lupe Fiasco, The Secret Machines and Morgan Heritage Band & Richie Spice.

Check the link (or Microsoft’s Zune Launch Party page) for details if you’re pining to attend.

The fact that launch day hasn’t actually arrived didn’t prevent some isolated stores from selling Zunes this weekend and one customer’s photo review was the rage of the blogosphere. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Zune client software wouldn’t install and the arresting error message screen was showing up on tech sites everywhere.

One other kvetch: it turns out that Microsoft is sending out a total of four Zune review units to the press before launch day, because “there aren’t enough to go around.” My guess is that we saw the four reviews last Thursday and it wasn’t a pretty sight. One other tidbit:

Matt Jubelirer, Zune product manager for Microsoft, acknowledges the word Zune doesn’t mean anything and says the absence of the name Microsoft in the Zune advertising campaign and on the player itself is completely intentional.

“We wanted a blank palette,” he told asap during a Zune demonstration.

Gosh, I thought Microsoft was the brand to turn to for home entertainment!

Update: Todd Bishop at The Seatlle PI points out some more less than favorable reviews and notes one of the perils of forking the branding:

Lastly, when putting together this story on the Zune last week, one of the people I spoke with was Steve Wilson of ABI Research, the company that found a higher-than-expected number of iPod users willing to seriously consider buying a Zune. Wilson said he believes one of the key factors was Microsoft’s name recognition. (Survey respondents were told it was a Microsoft product.)

But it’s worth noting that the Zune team isn’t playing up that connection to the parent company in its branding or consumer packaging, aiming instead to give the product an identity of its own in the long run.

Update: I guess the concerts aren’t so secret anymore:

Celebrating the U.S. launch of the new Zune(TM) digital media player and music service, Microsoft Corp. has worked with a number of cutting-edge artists to stage free concerts in public parks and plazas in urban centers across the country. Today at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle at the first of these Zune concerts, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates took the stage to share his excitement for this next step Microsoft is taking in music and entertainment.

Gates outlined the Zune vision to create new ways for people to connect, discover and share music and entertainment experiences. He was joined onstage by John Richards, morning show host of popular community radio station KEXP, to showcase the new Zune-to-Zune wireless sharing feature. Richards wirelessly sent the inaugural song to Gates, who then surprised the crowd by giving away his Zune device to a member of the audience.

Filed under Argo, General Business, Marketing, Microsoft, Public Relations, Zune

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One Response to “Here comes the Zune”

  1. Zune off to slow start? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] As heralded by yesterday’s pre-launch events and announcement, Microsoft’s Zune “iPod killer” went on sale in the USA today, but consumer interest seemed to be modest according to Franklin Paul at Reuters: But initial shopper interest suggested the Zune media player — heavily promoted in gadget reviews and television talk shows — was in for a slow building process. [...]

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