The recent Microsoft Zune glitch causing many 30GB models to lock up and require a complete erase/reset of the device may be more significant than many would initially believe. Microsoft certainly has some history of buggy software (e.g. the initial release of Windows Vista), and has had a rough year during 2008, but I suspect things may end up differently in 2009.
If, Microsoft truly “missed the boat” in the digital music market, as one analyst remarked, then why are there 20,000+ comments on one forum complaining of locked up 30GB Zunes? If Zunes are truly inferior to iPods or if Apple is not gradually losing market share to other media players, then why would this particular issue cause such a stir? In fact, the number of users with problems doesn’t include those with smaller flash-based Zune players, nor does the statistic indicate the number of people with 80GB (most likely one of the most popular) or 120GB models! My theory is that 2009 may be the year of the Zune. Certainly Apple won’t lose it’s footing in the digital music business overnight, but many users are expressing their disapproval of the iTunes software and the iTunes store, which attaches restrictions known as DRM to most of the available music. The software itself has shown little in the way of innovation over the past several versions. In fact, I’m not really sure iTunes 8 can be considered a major version upgrade (i.e. I think it should have been v7.8). It adds new DRM restrictions to certain types of video and includes the “Genius,” which attempts to suggest new artists and songs based on what the user is currently listening to. Unfortunately, it’s far from smart and just picks obvious alternatives. The Zune software is far more intelligent in this regard, which just provides yet another reason to ditch iTunes and switch to something better.
In conclusion, I’m waiting to see what Microsoft does this year, especially with the possibility of a Zune-based phone and Windows Mobile 7. Combined with the promising features and power of Windows 7, it could end up being a very good year indeed!