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How Zune can be doomed

In ComputerWorld, my message board sparring partner of Windows Magazine days Mike Elgan argues that Zune can kill the iPod by being the anti-iPod, much like Windows is (or was during its rise) the anti-Mac. I wrote last year that Microsoft wasn’t going to succeed with a Windows-like strategy in reference to Playsforsure, which was a more Windows-like strategy than Microsoft will ever be able to execute with Zune.

About the only points I agree with Mike on are that the initial execution of Zune has significant flaws and limitations, that Apple nevertheless has good reason to be concerned, and that cell phones from Apple and Microsoft would change the dynamics of the market. Beyond that, I can’t conceive how a hackable MP3 player would ever seriously challenge the iPod, much less lead the market. In fact, such a product has been on the market for years and hasn’t seen much market penetration. These are consumer electronics products; as simple as the iPod is for the functionality it offers, it’s still incredibly complex compared to, say, a portable cassette or CD player. Mike exhorts:

Let people transform the Zune into an Xbox game controller, a TV remote control, a portable presentation device, a wireless PC hard drive or a Vista gadget emulator. Give me a wireless keyboard and a Zune version of Pocket Outlook, and I’ll never buy another iPod. Build ClearType into Zune and make it the ultimate eBook reader (and sell eBooks on Zune Marketplace).

EBooks, eh? By this logic, Palm has built a real iPod-killer.