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Old 01-12-2010, 12:06 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Google's Nexus One Phone to face "Zune Problems"?

I just saw an interesting article from AppleInsider. They share a quote from a Bloomberg interview of the Microsoft’s Robbie Bach, president of the company's Entertainment & Devices Division, who was also in charge of Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" strategy (basically a DRM and format strategy if I remember right).

In reference to Google pushing Android and selling their own phone at the same, he says
Quote:
Doing both in the way they are trying to do both is actually very, very difficult. Google’s announcement sends a signal where they’re going to place their commitment. That will create some opportunities for us and we’ll pursue them.
Basically, he says that when he was in charge of "PlaysForSure", the decision to market Zune at the same time scared people away from PlaysForSure and killed it. (I'm taking a lot of liberty in summarizing, so read his original statements if you want more accuracy.)

But it seems that Microsoft has had to "laugh off" a lot of moves by competitors recently and seems to keep getting caught with it's pants down. I know I will probably lose a lot of people when I say that I like Microsoft products (but not everything about them, of course) and that I hope they succeed. It's been more than a decade since I had a Mac Plus, and I've never owned an iPod or iPhone or iMac or iShoe or whatever else they have available now. But Microsoft is starting to cause many people to wonder about their ability to deliver and compete effectively in this new world that isn't all about just the PC.

A few observations:
  • I can't help but think this is more about a high level executive positioning people's perception than a statement of belief
  • WinMobile 7 is rumored to have been put off again, and WinMobile is losing ground
  • The Apple tablet has all the buzz right now, and Microsoft responds at CES with what? An HP tablet and no details on it.
  • Microsoft search is having a lot of trouble competing with Google.
  • I go to Google maps for directions, not Microsoft Maps. (And yet, I started out with a desktop PC version of Microsoft Maps and loved it back then.)
  • People even seem to hate MS Windows, and even though I like Linux, I actually find Windows to be a pretty darn good product. Even Vista, believe it or not, with the exception of a few issues.

So I wouldn't put too much into it. Don't know if Nexus One will succeed, yet this doesn't cause me much worry. I'm hoping that Microsoft comes up with a great tablet solution that works for eBooks as well as other functions possible with the full Windows platform. But I'm losing confidence each year about whether they can deliver or whether someone else will end up beating them to the punch. CES and Apple's expected tablet may or may not be the way they lose the tablet wars, but eventually someone will win out if they don't come up with an answer. Ebooks together with web functionality seem to be creating a "window of opportunity" for tablets that intersects with the hardware enablers like new processors. I hope Microsoft takes advantage.

But poo-pooing and naysaying others is not likely to inspire people to wait for Microsoft solutions. It reminds me a lot of this famous unfortunate and embarrassing prediction from Palm's CEO when he claimed that Apple was going to have trouble getting into the smartphone business
Quote:
"We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” Colligan said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”
What I think he forgot is that knowledge and experience flows around an industry, and lessons learned really don't stay private. He also forgot that the surrounding technologies have changed, as well as the marketplace. We may just see something similar with Google's Nexus One.

And, even better, we may see things change dramatically in the eBook market as everyone learns from Amazon and Sony and other early leaders in the eBook race. Question is whether Amazon and Sony will stick their heads in the ground and let others take over with new ideas and screen types and form factors and multipurpose devices, etc. Or will they come with a renewed effort to innovate and survive. Surely Sony has learned something by the withering of their dominance with Walkman products and the rise of iPods.

Will Google succeed in the phone space? Will Sony and Amazon survive the eBook and tablet wars? Will Microsoft stay relevant? I don't know. There's a lot of luck and hard work and risk involved. And while it's easy to be an armchair quarterback, these wars take a master general with the right strategy and intelligence, and some properly trained troops and the right technology. But this is why it's so fascinating to watch the early phases of an industry. Once things shake out, all the fun is gone!

Last edited by Bob Russell; 01-12-2010 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Removed duplicate reference to quote from Palm
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:21 PM   #2
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Is Robbie Bach claiming they were really trying to continue support PlaysForSure after they launched the Zune? It is pretty obvious to most observers that it was a move to kill it off (understandable, since it didn't gain traction), and replace it with a system totally under their control.
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:29 PM   #3
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It's funny that you say that about MS and the tablet. MS introduced the tablet and and OS with "pen enabled" API what, 8 years ago? Now you are saying that Apple might "beat" them at it.

I think MS was ahead of it's time with the tablet. The devices we've had over the years have been very expensive, lousy battery life and really heavy unless you get a really small screen.

Of course, keep in mind that Apple doesn't do "cheap"... if they "do" introduce a tablet I'm expecting it to NOT be under $1000. When people compare it to some of the convertible Netbooks with touch screens you can buy today for $500 or less... they are going to pass.

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Old 01-12-2010, 12:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pilotbob View Post
I
I think MS was ahead of it's time with the tablet. The devices we've had over the years have been very expensive, lousy battery life and really heavy unless you get a really small screen.

BOb
Actually, when I first heard about the Apple Tablet, my first thought was this:
http://www.pencomputing.com/frames/mira.html

Rather than a scaled up iPod, more like an iMac/MacPro/Desktop extension.

Now I'm less sure of that strategy.
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Old 01-12-2010, 02:47 PM   #5
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Quote:
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MS introduced the tablet and and OS with "pen enabled" API what, 8 years ago? Now you are saying that Apple might "beat" them at it.
Just like Apple beat Sony at the portable mp3 market, when Sony had a head start with Walkman.

Sure Microsoft has products and the foresight, but they don't actually have something that catches on with the general public. I have a tablet, and love it. Except text entry is tough and it's too big and heavy and etc etc. Mostly I use it as a small laptop, and for viewing content with the screen folded back to look like it's a slate.

Agreed, the Apple tablet is likely to be priced too high to dominate the slate market, and will likely take only a segment. At least for now. Heck, MS has some neat concepts and I wouldn't count them out yet either. I am biased toward MS approaches to mobile (phone and tablet) because they have more of the "computer in your hand" approach as opposed to the "consumer gadget which happens to be on a computer platform" approach that smart phone competitors have seem to have taken.

Btw, has anyone noticed that we always seem to be just on the "verge" of really useful mobile products, but they are all still somewhat painful for the user? Netbooks are too slow. Tablet input is too hard. Battery life is not yet truly full day (except for e-ink, which has its own limitations). Tiny screens are too limiting because of the large screen bias in applications and OS and web page designs. Phones can't do real computing stuff and application options are limited (despite the growth of app stores).

Personally, I still believe the "promised land" is still coming for mobile, but not this year. For now, we have to bear the shortcomings and grab only those devices whose shortcomings we can live with in order to get the mobility. At least we have good solutions for reading flowable text. And full page pdf solutions are apparently arriving if you want to spend a lot of money. Tablets may also help with the full page by allowing "zippy" control of half-page views. Netbooks are also a good solution for general computing for some people.

I guess what I really want is "no compromise" - full 24hr battery, survives rough handling, has a light zippy full OS with instant on and full web support in a form factor that is all about the screen and keyboard rather than the electronics constraints. That may take a while.
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Old 01-12-2010, 02:58 PM   #6
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I have to agree with you. I also have never purchased an Apple product, and it is highly unlikely that I ever will. I like the Windows OS, especially Win7.
I very much want a tablet PC too. The HP that was shown at CES had way too much bezel, the front needs to be 98% screen. Still waiting for a tablet...
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Old 01-12-2010, 05:13 PM   #7
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My opinion on this is that MS could have kicked butt and taken names if they'd officially introduced even a demo of a Courier type device. I haven't been able to find verification of this, but I have heard that Steve Ballmer hasn't even SEEN those Courier demos. As it is, IF Apple does come out with a tablet device, MS will be left with their pants down (as someone else so colorfully put it). I like Mac OSX just fine - but the software support for what I do isn't there. Same with Linux. I'm with CyGuy, above, I like Windows 7, and I love the fact that the software to read every ebook format out there is now available for it.

So yeah, I think Microsoft dropped the ball at CES.
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Old 01-12-2010, 05:39 PM   #8
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If you've missed it here is an interesting take on what's happened to Microsoft:

2000-2009: Microsoft's decade of shattered dreams
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:40 PM   #9
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As it is, IF Apple does come out with a tablet device, MS will be left with their pants down (as someone else so colorfully put it).
...and you know what happens when you are out in the field and your drop your pants.. the Burro, he comes after you....

(oh wait, that was another thread. )

BOb
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:49 PM   #10
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...and you know what happens when you are out in the field and your drop your pants.. the Burro, he comes after you....

(oh wait, that was another thread. )

BOb
KARMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:08 PM   #11
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I'm beginning to think that the promised land of mobile computing will not (cannot?) be reached until we have truly ubiquitous and robust wireless service that allows the creation of a mobile device that only requires minimal computing capablity but is tied to the home (or work) PC...with the stationary PC doing most of the heavy lifting. This would create an environment where the mobile device is mostly used as a portable display along with a few other necessary local capabilities (e.g. phone, GPS, etc.) and therefore allows a whole lot of innovation and functionality to be done at the backend. Then each of us could have a mobile device that does exactly what *we* want it to do.

Think graphical timesharing with a portable 'terminal'....

-Jeff
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Old 01-12-2010, 09:47 PM   #12
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The iPhone has nowhere near the market share that the iPod had when Zune was launched. Symbian is around 50%, RIM 21, iPhone 14, Android around 3. In contrast, the iPod had well over 50% (probably closer to 70%) when the Zune launched.

Separately, there is little evidence that Microsoft has figured out why the Zune has languished, or that they are likely to stop the WinMo slide. I gotta say, I'm not sure why you would take advice from a failure....
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