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Cliczune Archives: January 2009


Blue Monster Guy Gets Laid Off

Bluemonster_thumb_2 Is nothing sacred?  Well, maybe not, currently.

It used to be that if you got a tattoo for a company, with all the buzz it generates afterwords, that you were there for life.  Maybe not these days.  One guy, better known as Dan Woodman, found out that despite his tattoo, and the ultimate in loyalty, that he was laid off from Microsoft.  He is among the 1400 strong that the Redmond folks laid off last week in their corporate downsizing.

What does Dan get for his personal sacrifice, and all the buzz generated by this tat?  Not much as he lost his job as well.  So much for years of loyal employees, who would make the personal sacrifice, it's just up to "corporate" and to let them debate it.  In the meantime, he is going for his 15 secs of fame, and restarting his personal blog.  I can tell him that the odds of generating enough revenue to quit his day job are quite remote.

Is a Microsoft Smartphone The New Center of Your Digital Universe?

Microsoft_dock_patent There's been more than enough drama this week with talk of cuts of the Zune team after missing holiday sales numbers.  Then there's the aspect of some type of major upgrade to the next version of the Zune.  Finally, there's a curious patent filed by the folks out at Redmond.

While the patent is not clearly for the Zune, it is certainly plausible that such a device could figure into the plans of the next version of the Zune (or maybe one or two beyond that at the rate that things go out there).  It comes down to the concept of what a PC is.  For many users, they only use a small percentage of what their computer can do in terms of processing power.  On top of that, the web has assumed greater importance as many tasks can be done relying more on bandwidth than on desktop computing power, such as image editing, and even video editing, not to mention web based document creation.  While I have two computers with dualcore processors, I get along fine on the road with a single core notebook (Athlon XP-M 2200+) so a powerful smartphone just might be able to get the job done for many users willing to trade portability for power.

Here's the concept based on the patent that Microsoft proposed.  It is based upon a "smart interface system," that consists of a docking station with ports for Ethernet, USB peripherals including an external hard drive and an external display.  The idea is that you could attach a keyboard and mouse to the portable device making it feel more like a full fledged computer.  I could certainly envision this working, and it could bridge the gap (assuming there is one that needs to be filled) from current cellphones to the step up to netbooks.  Think of it as the notebook docking station taken a step further, and allowing a smartphone to perform a wider set of tasks usually associated with a desktop computer.

Is this the concept of the next Zune?  Or will it be just " Zune like?"  Will surfing the net with a squircle be in the cards soon?  Could this be a device to take on the iTouch/iPhone?  It may be a l-o-n-g time before we get a clearer picture of this roadmap, but it is intriguing nonetheless.

Zune Gets What Looks to be Reprieve

Happy-zune

The Zune up and down chorus took another up swing earlier this week. Microsoft chatted pointedly with a Seattle-based newspaper about how the Zune will still be around, in its present hardware form factor, for sometime to come.

Adam Sohn, the Zune's director of marketing, noted to the Seattle P.I. that sales were down, as has been previously reported, but he blamed it mostly on the down economy. “"Some of them are environmental," he said. "Everyone knows that the economy is not what it was a year ago and that is hurting some folks.”

He also said though “much of the drop” had to do with the fact there were too many Zune 30s, resulting in nothing new until that particular supply volume came down. As for the future, Sohn told the newspaper Microsoft is “on track to deliver the next generation of Zune innovation in software and hardware...this calendar year.”

There you have it...the Zune maze continues.

Microsoft Plans a Fix

IZune

With the dismal sales numbers from the holiday season, the Zune team is definitely having a big time huddle over the last several weeks.  While we can all blame a lukewarm economy heading South, there are also fundamental issues.  Take a look at this analysis, and head on back for some further discussion.

I think Microsoft made a good product in the Zune.  The hard drive based Zunes, 80 and 120 gigs strong, are very good products.  They are well made, easy to control, and have decent battery lives.  The LCD screens are wasted on just music as many of us use them for.  The Zune software is good enough that folks don't complain about it anymore.  I use it often and it's stable and capable.

The flash based Zunes are decent, but not spectacular in a crowded field.  They're pretty enough, but there's too much competition.  Here Apple gets the vote of the kids that buy into their ads marketing, and SanDisk gets the dollars from the spendthrifts seeking good value.  It would seem that Zune suffers from "me too" syndrome among this market segment, that it can't find its niche in.

However, Microsoft has made one serious mistake here.  They targeted the iPod Classic, which is yesteryear's iPod.  It also is not selling  spectacularly well.  It's pretty clear that if you want to dethrone the leader, you need to attack their best selling flagship product- the iPod Touch.  No point in going after second best, right?  Heck, I own a Zune 80, and I keep debating if I could use an iTouch as a PDA to replace my Palm T/X, and I don't even buy any Apple products!

If the Zune team wants to seriously get back into this race, they shoud all figure out the weaknesses of the iTouch be scouring the forums.  They also need to use it themsleves, and only then can they build a better Zune.  It's lousy to see the Zune, which pioneered wireless in a music player, get beat on their own turf.

While the zPhone is dead, will there be an iZune instead

Zune, Built Solid State

Toshibas-128gb-solid-state-drive_5638 For years now, the cheaper and smaller capacity music player were flash based.  For those with large music collections, it was hard drive territory.  What else was gonna hold all those songs?  The downside was that if you dropped a hard drive player, than all bets were off, and you just might get to cash in on the long term Best Buy warranty that you paid too much for.  I will admit that I do have concerns bringing my Zune 80 out on cold days, and don't like to leave it in the car when the temp is below the freezing mark, although this is hardly evidence based.

Soon though, you just might be able to have your cake and eat it too.  A recent analysis envisions that solid state drive will replace the mechanical hard drives in our music players in the near future.  They are envisioning 100% growth over the next three years in this segment.  Not even Starbuck's can boast that kind of rocketing growth rate these days!  They're talking a 5 billion dollar industry in a few short years, assuming the wheels stay on this economy, of course.  Apparently, much of that growth will be in the 1.8" hard drive segment, which is what the Zune sports.

With SSD capacities already large enough, it's just a matter of time and price before the venerable hard drive gets shelved out of this market segment.  I look forward to dropping my Zune then, and it surviving to tell the tale.

Zunepedia?

Zune Amidst all the news of Zune falling $100 million short of estimates, and concerns of Microsoft's continuing commitment to the Zune, it was good to find something, make that anything else, of a Zune nature.  What I stumbled across today was that a Zune Wiki, a Zunepedia if you will, was started recently.  Sure, you could just go to the Zune page of the Wikipedia, but it's also good to have the Zune have a wiki devoted all to it.

As a repository of knowledge, that everyone can add to and edit, you just can't beat a wiki for knowledge on a topic.  It was started by Zac Altman, a serious Zune fan.  So far there are pages for each of the models, and als pages for each of the features.  Some of the pages are just placeholders waiting for some knowledgable Zune owner to share this knowledge.  Isn't this what the "Get Into the Social" tagline is all about?

Zune Surface concept

Zunesurface

Already thinking of the new generation zune? Zune Philippines came up with Zune Surface. It's the a touchscreen device that integrates the features of the famous Microsoft Surface with it's multi-touch technology and unique interconnection with other devices. Various new features are also conceptualized to challenge the dominant touchscreen PMP device. The Zune Surface packs a camera with auto-focus and flash, games that utilize the powerful processor, as well as internet browsing and instant messaging.

With the gloomy economy and failing profits, Microsoft should produce a Zune touch-screen line that provides more features and restores that needed inspiration and enthusiasm on the Zune brand.

We all hope to get this one when and if it comes true, by that time, 256GB SSD shouldn't be that expensive anymore. :)

Zune Surface Wallpapers

Zune Bloodbath Happening at Microsoft?

ZunegloomThe bloodletting right now going on at Microsoft may be hitting the Zune group particularly hard, though no specific details on layoffs by groups have been made public. Here is what we do know at this point, based upon the ever buzzing blog news engine:

- ZDNet Microsoft blogger Mary-Jo Foley reports, via her company sources, that the bulk of the first immediate 1,400 cuts are coming from Entertainment & Devices group. These guys are the ones responsible, of course, for the Zune.

- Engadget noticed, via Microsoft's latest quarterly statement, that Zune platform revenue decreased “$100 million, or 54 percent compared to the same quarter last year, due to falling device sales.”

Anyway you look at it, it is not a good time for the Zune at Microsoft headquarters. Could the buzz earlier this month about the Zune's future as a viable platform actually be true? We will have to see in the coming days what happens to truly know.

Does Zune Make Money?

Microsoft_logo The computer industry is certainly a cyclical one.  With Vista not driving new sales, and missing the netbook trend, Microsoft had a tough year in 2008.  On top of that, overall PC sales are down for a variety of reasons including less need to upgrade, and tighter economic times.  So tough a year in fact, that this global giant of software missed earnings by 11%.  And alas, there will be job cuts.

Of note, around 80% of Microsoft's profits come from two products: Windows and Office software (as an aside, while I've owned every consumer version of Windows since 95, I dumped Office a few years back for OpenOffice).  In this mix, it is still open to debate if the Zune is profitable or not:

Microsoft's Xbox was a bright spot in an otherwise downbeat quarter, with revenues at the company's entertainment and devices unit growing 3.5%, ahead of expectations. But the entertainment and devices unit provided only a fraction of Microsoft's 2008 profit.  Microsoft doesn't disclose whether the Zune, its two- year old music player, is profitable, but the digital music player market is dominated by Apple's iPod device.

I think we all hope that the Zune team doesn't get cut to the bone by these cutbacks.

Windows Mobile 6.5 To Incorporate Zune

Microsoft is expected to rollout their latest version of their mobile operating system next month, dubbed Windows Mobile 6.5 at the Mobile World Congress.  The plan will continue to rely on hardware partners to produce the actual phone, with Microsoft handling the software side of things.

The latest rumor is that this newest operating system will incorporate at least some of the Zune features into the handset.  It is also hypothesized that this is what the "Danger team" has been up to lately.  These new phones are expected for the second half of this year.

Pic8

I was going to just dismiss this as yet another zPhone rumor, but I noticed that this screenshot did have Marketplace as a screen icon.  Could this be yet another clue?  Anyone for "the social" over a 3G network?