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Why Zune matters

November 21st, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

By most accounts, the Zune won’t have any impact on the MP3 market in general or on the iPod market specifically. I agree in that sales of Zune players are going to be so slow that it won’t register any impact on iPod sales. However, I still think that the Zune matters – and here’s why.

The most innovative feature in the Zune is the built-in WiFi support that allows you to share songs with other Zune users. Microsoft intended this as a way for people to easily share the music that they are listening to and built in some cool preview functions for DRM protected songs so you could still get a chance to listen to the song and decide if you want to buy it for yourself. I think it’s a safe bet to say that future versions of the iPod are likely to include a similar feature. Steve Jobs will probably wait until they can get the battery life up a bit before introducing a power hungry radio to the iPod, but it will come.

But Microsoft was wrong to think that the most common use of this feature will be to share songs with friends or random people on the train while riding in to work. The WiFi support is going to revolutionize the portable media device industry, but not through some kind of web2.0 social software phenomenon. Connecting to the outside world is going to open up the portable media device as a new advertising platform.

Think about it. If your media player can look for people that are sharing music, why not install a simple server that shares advertising messages into the subway station. Posters would tell you to check for a free download. These messages could be full multimedia experiences with music and video to bring you the latest info on Gap jeans, JIF peanut butter, or the new Mercedes sedan. Real Estate agents would be able to share a video tour of the house you are parked in front of while looking at the For Sale sign. Professional sports teams could offer video clips from the season or even game highlights seconds after you saw the play on the field.

The possibilities are really limitless, but it will happen. How do I know? Easy. I’ve never seen any good technology that could be used for advertising get passed up by marketing executives. What then will be the lynch pin to pull that will make all of this come together? Well, you only need a big enough market for advertisers to take notice. The iPod is the only platform that can come close. If Apple adds the WiFi features to the iPod, then they will also be well positioned to sell simple “share stations” that can serve up advertising and other messages to passersby that have their iPods set to look for others that are sharing content.

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