New Zune colors and functions in the works, but also new consumption ideas

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Jason Reindorp, marketing director for Zune, made some waves today with his comments on the upcoming plans for the group. The noise made around Zune will only increase as the year marches on toward the next inevitable holiday buying season. More colors, marketing, and features can’t come Zune enough according to Jeremy at Ars Technica. However there is something far more interesting to consider, and to talk about it, we should start with mobile phones and cars (bear with us).

Cingular makes their money when people pay a recurring fee to use their cellular network (although in this case it’s actually Sprint’s network). As such they subsidize the cost of the hardware necessary for you to be connected to that network. City CarShare is a company in the Northern California that enables people to borrow cars. By paying monthly fees along with a small per-hour fee, members can drive shared cars whenever and wherever they choose. Though they are not without their individual downsides, both of these business models satisfy the needs of lots of us.

Why then, couldn’t the same idea be applied to listening to music? This is exactly what Kostas asks at Zune-Online: “Zune for free with a phone-like plan?” Anyone who watches the cost of computing power understands that the cost of hardware has and will always fall. In the future if a music player can be built for a low enough cost, and enough money can be made from the sale of or subscription to content, why not give the player away?

The Discussion

  • User profile image

    Glad to see that Microsoft will ramp up promotion of the Zune.
    I was wondering where it went Tongue Out

  • User profile image

    For a current business models study, it's an interesting question. However...

    I'm thinking a bit further into the future.  And not even from a better business origin point.  But what happens when the world starts to understand that it can't keep making cheap disposable hardware?  There's a finite amount of resources, and even more, a finite amount of damage we can do by throwing a large portion of those now processed (toxic) resources into dumps.  What if that device now has to both last longer, and therefore be designed for service?  How does that affect this model?  If the content and distribution end is digital and cheaper to operate, do we end up seeing the exact opposite of what is proposed here?  Where the hardware and its corresponding 'hard-service' become much more expensive proportionally, and the the 'soft-services' become much less expensive.  Somewhat similar to the European mobile market, but coming from a slightly different reasoning.

    The thing to consider at that point is how it plays out with the whole hardware-software scaling relationship.  In order to keep that notion of "progress" functional, the hardware would also have to be designed not just for service but for upgradability.  If not, it sparks another conversation about design under constraint.  Would we possibly, eventually get better software if the designers of it had to do amazing things with the hardware presented to them? 

    Welcome to the can of worms that is a meaninful and well directed blog post.  Good work.

  • User profile image
    JD Lewin

    Thanks for the compliement Smiley

    I think that in the reasonably near-term (let's say a decade) there will be a big push towards creating hardware in a sustainable way at every point in the process from idea to delivery, and that will be at odds with doing things the old (and cheap) way. When you do start to think further out however, I think you're spot on; the ultimate breakdown of the cost equation of anything that has both a physical and non-physical components will always lean toward the physical elements costing more.

    That said you've got a lot of steps in between, and I don't think economics will let you skip right to the end scenario. There's going to be more and more discussion about the cost of data, as it relates to bandwidth but more importantly energy, through the end of this decade and probably deep into the next. Until we have a solution that can provide more stable energy costs, that part will continue to be unstable and therefore more expensive.

    Storage and bandwidth get cheaper all the time. Manufacturing will get slightly more expensive as organizations try to embrace the 'right' way to operate as opposed to the 'best' way, but ultimately those costs are small fish. Energy isn't getting cheaper anytime soon, and that's what's going to keep us from living the Federation of Planets lifestyle Wink

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