Zuneless in Seattle

Several people have asked whether I bought a Zune and inquired about my early impressions. I am deeply mortified and burned by the fires of unhallowed shame to inform you all that I am still Zuneless in Seattle, almost 3 full days after the launch, for a variety of reasons.

In no particular order:

  • My employer — that big corporation with deep pockets that is behind the Zune — is lame. Employees aren’t able to purchase a Zune (modestly discounted, by the way) until the week following the launch. Nice way to leverage your best spokespeople and biggest potential fan base there guys! I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter.
  • The pre-order I placed with my favorite online retailer turned out to be a backorder as they lacked inventory to clear it on Tuesday like I expected and as they indicated they would when I placed the order several weeks ago.  Lame. I cancelled the order on Wednesday evening.
  • The local retailers all sold out. This is a good thing. If the device didn’t sell out in our own backyard there would be some ‘splainin’ to do. Sure I could have driven 50 miles and settled for a white one — one retailer I called said they had 2 white Zunes left when I called — but then there’s that whole 8.8% sales tax issue and the last thing I want is a white Zune having owned a white iPod for so many years. I was in all-day training from 9-5 both Tuesday and Wednesday so I wasn’t able to go shopping midday.

I’ll get one of the employee discounted units next week. I’ve waited this long, so what’s another few days?

Regarding my early impressions: I am somewhat dismayed by the sheer amount of HatoradeTM being uncorked this week surrounding the Zune launch on sites like Engadget and C|Net. The vitriol being spewed by reviewers who insist on comparing it to the iPod and commenters who have never actually seen the device is amazing.

Remember way back in March of 2001 when Apple released the first version of its OS X operating system? Operating systems is the area where Microsoft is the champ and Apple is the challenger (i.e., the opposite of iPod & Zune). See for yourself how many times OS X features (or the lack thereof) were compared directly against Windows ME/2000 in the C|Net launch article…the answer: zero.

So, when Apple launched its new OS back in 2001 to compete against Microsoft’s massively successful offering, there were no head-to-head comparisons.  Furthermore, statements like “…the initial version of the OS is incomplete. It does not include the ability to burn CDs or record and play DVDs” were casually mentioned in a “no big deal” manner.

But now, in 2006, when Microsoft launches its new portable media player to compete against Apple’s massively successful offering, every article compares it head-to-head against the iPod. Asinine statements like “It’s no iPod” and demonstrably false missives like “…I found the screen to be somewhat dingy, especially compared with the latest iPods…” are common.

Compare the tone of this Apple OS X launch review with this Microsoft Zune launch review. In the former, the strongest language I could find includes words like “inability,” “omissions” and “limited.” The latter is littered with caustic rips like “envy,” “kill,” “bombed,” “balky,” “dud,” and “Draconian.” David Pogue should participate in this year’s Hater’s Ball where the reward is a refresher course in unbiased journalism.

Lastly, is anyone really surprised Zunes aren’t exactly selling like hotcakes in Apple’s backyard, Silicon Valley, aka “H8 Microsoft, USA?” Is that really newsworthy? How many cars does Toyota sell in Detroit?

Such is life when everyone calls you the king despite the actual marketshare of the products being compared. It is always more fun to throw rocks at the throne. Regardless, as I have said before, I’ll take the throne over the rocks any day.