Microsoft Zune Team Launches Latest Exercise in Futility

Published on September 15, 2009
by John Paczkowski

black-zune-hd-rm-engMicrosoft brought it’s not-so-anxiously-awaited Zune HD to market today. With its touchscreen, Wi-Fi capability and high-definition video output, the device is intended as an answer to the iPod touch, though it lacks the application marketplace that helped make Apple’s device so popular.

And it’s not going to be getting one anytime soon, either, despite rumors that Microsoft is working on one and courting developers to port their iPhone apps over to it. Which is not to say that the company isn’t building an answer to Apple’s App Store–it is. Redmond is just building it for Windows Mobile, not Zune.

“We’re trying to get out of the business of building similar things in the company that don’t work together, and the Windows Mobile team is tackling the challenge of a mobile apps marketplace right now,” Zune marketing manager Brian Seitz told TechFlash. “We don’t necessarily line up perfectly with that, to take advantage of whatever ends up coming out of that from the Zune HD standpoint, but down the line if there’s a way that we can plug into what they’re doing, I’m sure we’ll look into whether that makes sense for the business.”

644212001_wTsHX-X1But by then, of course, it will be too late. Arguably, it’s too late already. As Apple gleefully noted during its annual music event last week, NPD pegs the company’s share of the portable media device market at nearly 74 percent. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s tops out at an estimated 1.1 percent.

Raising that share was already a Sisyphean task for Microsoft (MSFT), and it has only become more difficult now that Apple (AAPL) has introduced not just a new iPod nano with a built-in video camera and FM radio, but also a more inexpensive iPod touch.

Microsoft is pricing the 16GB Zune HD at $219.99 and the 32GB version at $289.99. But you can get a 32GB iPod touch for $299. And you can get an 8GB touch for $199. Now, granted, the touch offers only half the storage of the 16GB Zune HD, but it supports the iTunes App Store. And if you really want that extra 8GB, you can always buy an iPod nano, which shoots video and at $179.00, is $30 cheaper than the Zune HD.

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