You would think a company will try to sell as many of its products as possible for maximum profit. But no, not Microsoft. Not with the Zune. Not only will Microsoft not sell Zunes in Australia, but they actually discourage anyone from buying one through a reseller in case you really wanted one. That kind of enthusiasm is unacceptable. At the same time, iPods are selling better than hotcakes, owning up to 80% market share in Australia. The same probably applies to much of the world, you know, in countries outside of the United States. Yeah, there’s a handful of those.
Speaking of iPods, in 2001, Apple launched the first generation iPod worldwide on a global release date. That is, in at least 26 countries with official Apple stores plus retailer partners in countries without Apple presence. For a much smaller company back then, they certainly understood the concept of a global marketplace. It’d be damn hard today to find a country which won’t sell you an iPod, even when there’s no iTunes store.
The ridiculous reason why Microsoft won’t sell its Zune anywhere outside of the United States, not even beloved Canada, is because of the lack of regional music stores. If you were to ask me, I think that’s a stupid business decision based on ‘glass-is-half-empty’ reasoning and it’s actually hurting the brand in the long-run.
Believe it or not, Australia didn’t have an iTunes music store until late 2005 – 4 years after the introduction of the iPod. But that didn’t stop anyone from buying an iPod and loading their own content onto it for the first four years. The fact is they sold iPods and made money without a music store. Apple only made more money with the iTunes store.
You might say well, “music might be pretty important in a music player”, but the Zune is not just a music player. Music is only one of the six features of the Zune. The others being video, sharing, pictures, radio and podcasts. All of which have an abundance of content in this or any developed country.
Even music is plentiful if you think about it – peer-to-peer, DRM-free MP3s and free from indie-artists.
In fact, I hardly listened to any mainstream music on my previous media player. It was all freely available content that is compatible with any media player, including the Zune.
You could argue the same for the iPhone, the phone service is kind of essential but otherwise a great device, so why is it too a US-only device? The difference here is that Apple is proactively working to get the iPhone into other markets. In a matter of 3 months, they’ve already established partnerships in Europe and Canada. The Zune team on the other hand haven’t managed one in a matter of 12 months as of next week. It’s not like Microsoft doesn’t have a worldwide presence and might have a hard time negotiating with music labels. But it’s because they’re not trying.
Consumers are not hopeless without some sort of integrated music store. Sure, a music store will make the integrated experience much richer, and probably sell more devices, but I believe the device on its own is worth buying. That’s how they sold MP3 players before the iPod and if I recall correctly, people still bought them.
I should point out though the Zune is not impossible to get in Australia. There’s a handful of them sold new on eBay, through a few online retailers and as well as the trusty Microsoft Australia employee. But that’s not to say there’s no risk. Even though Microsoft has said they’ll refund any defective devices in Australia, there’s no guarantee of warranty or support when required.
I’ve even gone as far as asking Zune’s public relations to buy a review unit. They didn’t even bother to respond. Frankly, I’m sick of waiting. My next alternative is an iPod Touch and I’m sure Apple will be glad to profit from me.