Back at the end of October, I wrote about Steven Levy's new book commemorating the iPod. I'm sure Microsoft is hoping, at this point, that it will be a historical record of those first few years when Apple ruled the MP3 player world, before the Zune came along.
A report released on Nov. 1 from ABI Research touts in its headline that "58% of iPod Owners Planning Another MP3 Player Purchase Will Consider Microsoft's Zune." A survey of 1,725 teenagers and adults in the U.S. found that the Zune at least seems compelling to new users, or else that they are not so committed to Apple that they would rule out purchasing a Zune player. Principal analyst Steve Wilson concluded that "the iPod users don't display the same passionate loyalty to iPods that Macintosh users have historically shown for their Apple products," and conclude that "Apple will need to make some big announcements in 2007 if it is to maintain its edge in the industry."
In other words, a leadership and innovator role only buys you so much cultural cache if someone releases a better product than you. Is the Zune going to be a better product? ABI writes that its researchers believe "that a crucial factor will be whether or not Microsoft can differentiate the Zune from competing products in some meaningful way," questioning whether Wi-Fi peer-to-peer sharing is useful enough to make viewers feel that much more loyal.
Meanwhile, Staci D. Kramer at paidContent points out the changes in royalty plans for the Zune, in which a new deal has been struck with Universal Music Group to provide a royalty for every Zune unit sold, with half of the fee going to Universal artists. Apparently, the plan is for $1 of every unit sold ($250 per unit price) will go to UMG, so artists will split $.50 per every device sold. Kramer writes that, "the deal, while not a first, marks a variation form the pay-per-download or pay-per-play models." Her story includes several interesting quotes from various newspaper stories.
Yinka Adegoke with Reuters writes that "the groundbreaking deal could redefine the digital music business pioneered by Apple Computer Inc. Rivals including cell phone makers eventually could pay for hardware sales as well as for the music itself, Universal said."
We'll see what happens when the Zune is released Tuesday, but the blogosphere is swarming with buzz waiting for the release. For more information, see the Zune page on Wikipedia.
Thanks for David Edery and Joshua Green for the information they sent along for the preparation of this post.
Oh, and be sure to read through the comments, where a couple of readers have already expressed their serious doubts as to both the validity of this ABI study and especially to the way it has been used to bolster claims of the iPod's demise. I guess rumors of the iPod's death have been greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain (and John Dixon). I know that the iPod has a stronghold on the Ford household, anyway. (My wife is quite the aficionado.)