Zune and Podcasting

Zune LogoIt appears that the new portable player Zune™, will support podcasting. However, podcasting functionality will not be ready at launch. In other words it will not ship supporting podcasting. I am not sure what not ready means but iTunes and iPods have been doing it for a while and Microsoft seem to be a bit slow on the uptake.

I see the Zune and it’s failure to support podcasting as a real drawback to the purchase of one on release. Sure I host and produce a podcast so I might be a tad peeved that the medium has been neglected and not made a priority. But that said the Zune has been on the drawing board for quite some time. In addition the fact that iTunes supports subscribing to podcasts, I thought would be a motivator for the Zune developers to ship with podcasting support. That addition would certainly make the Zune more attractive to the early adopter who already subscribes to podcasts.

Within the current technological and web climate I think that podcasting should have been a consideration. I do not buy the;

“it’s that podcasting wasn’t done in time.”

line that was given by David Caulton on his blog Zunester.

They have indeed had time to make ready podcasting support, had they made it something to ensure was ready. So that leaves a couple of conclusions that can be made. Did they purposely neglect podcasting support in order to promote the “Zune Marketplace“? Most podcasts are free. Sure that is speculation as well. But what better way to promote your new player than having the feature of being able to play free, quality content.

Perhaps Microsoft thought that there was not the interest in podcasts for it to be included. However, I am somewhat of a geek and I have next to no music on my mp3 player. What do I have? 99% podcasts. Who is it then that might consider purchasing a Zune? I would argure that the demographic will be early adopters, traditionally geeks (most of my work-mates have never heard of a Zune). What does the average geek listen to as well as music? Podcasts. I want a bloody mp3 player that supports podcasting, otherwise as far as I am concerned what is going to be the point? It seems very straightforward to me that they needed to support podcasting on release. Otherwise the Zune offers nothing to me that I don’t already have.

Or is it just the fact that Microsoft just don’t get podcasting as Scoble states in his summary of the Zune Vs the iPod:

“Podcasting. Apple gets this trend, Microsoft doesn’t.”

Microsoft are demonstrating by their actions that they don’t get it in my opinion. You only have to go as far as the newly released Windows Media Player 11 to see that; no it does not support podcasting. If Microsoft “gets” podcasting it would have been an included feature in their new player. A very short look at iTunes and Winamp tells you what the trends are, both support podcasting. I do not understand why Microsoft are saying they get it when by their exclusion they are doing something totally different to the most of the major offerings out there and therefore essentially creating an “un-feature”. I am no businessman but I know what I would have been doing.

It has been voiced that aversion to podcasting is the fact that podcasting has “pod” in the name. While I too had the brief thought that podcasts required an iPod in order to listen to them, it did not last long. In addition I think that this type of thinking has somewhat turned around recently. I did get into podcasting early, when it was new to most people. This line of thinking has been debunked by a comment made on Zunester by the author David Caulton who states:

“We’ll ship podcasting, and we’ll call it “Podcasting” when we do.”

Authors Comment on the Post: “Scoble’s Post

What I find the most remarkable is the response to the response that the developers of the Zune have made in response to not having podcasting support:

“… it’s important to separate things we don’t have at launch from comments about Zune’s long term prospects.”

So, what, we don’t have podcast support at the moment but don’t worry it will be in the future? That is like selling a house and saying, “Oh, yeah… no walls… don’t worry they will be there after you buy the house.”. In my opinion that then means that they are shipping an unfinished product. Why do I want an unfinished product? I don’t, that means that I will wait to purchase. If ever. With rock solid and massive support for iTunes and the iPod would you not want a finished product that was able to compete on equal footing with the competition? At present how is that possible when the two products do not compare?

This does damage the long term prospects of the Zune. When launching a new product you want a mass uptake of that product that creates a loyal user base for the long term. You want people to choose your product over the competition. I am standing in the shop confronted with a Zune and an iPod, one supports podcasts and one does not. No brainer, I am going to choose the one that has the best features, regardless of cost. I am also going to think that the salesman saying, “don’t worry it will have “X” feature later” is full of shit. That may not be true for all users but it most certainly is for me.

This is not about playing .mp3 files. An mp3 player should be .mp3 compatible and the Zune is. Sure you can download and transfer your podcasts to a Zune or an iPod.

This is about making technology and media more accessible to the user. As I have said many times before podcasting is not an easy concept for new users to grasp. They do not understand RSS feeds or what an enclosure is. How then are they to make sense of podcasting unless software and hardware developers make it easier for them to access and enjoy? I will continue to struggle to market our podcast. Right after that I will attempt to explain to people how to get it.

Not everybody has or wants iTunes. Sure it is a “one click” process given you have iTunes and the right link. But that is not choice. I do not have iTunes or an iPod, It should be a one click process with Windows Media Player (or other software) and a Zune to synchronise with. Mind you I don’t use Windows Media Player either. Microsoft really need to take a look at what they doing and how they are doing it in order to be a competitive market leader in portable media solutions, that is not to say their new offering won’t be successful, it probably will be but the uptake would be quicker had they looked at the big picture.

One Response to “Zune and Podcasting”

  1. Feed Your Zune, What Microsoft Failed to Deliver « Rooster’s Rail Says:

    […] As regular readers of this blog would know the Zune will ship without podcasting support software. But that is okay, what Microsoft could not or would not deliver an independent 3rd party developer has managed to do just fine. Not as hard as Microsoft would have you believe. But then podcasts are free quality content, there is no money in that. […]


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