To hear Microsoft tell the story, you'd think its recently released Zune MP3 was doing just fine: Sales of the widely-reviled device were "exactly within our expectations," a Microsoft spokesperson said recently. Reality, however, is a bit more cruel: After appearing in the top 10 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling electronics devices for about a week after its debut, the highest-charting Zune model today can only be found if you scroll quite a ways down the list: The black Zune is currently nestled at number 95. The white and brown models, even more embarrassingly, can be found at numbers 866 and 687, respectively. Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research refers to Amazon's sales list as "a pretty good indicator of consumer interest."
So what went wrong? Just about everything, actually. The Zune provides only a small portion of the functionality a consumer gets with an iPod, and it does so with a device is that delivers less batter life and yet costs exactly the same as a comparable iPod. The Zune is incompatible with every single online service on the planet, even those that utilize Microsoft's PlaysForSure technologies. Zune's marketing is abysmal, while Microsoft appears to be going to great lengths to mimic everything about the iPod it can while offering virtually no real benefits over Apple's dominant solutions.
How dominant is the iPod? Looking over Amazon's top-10 list for electronics, you'll see that 6 of the devices are MP3 players. Of those 6 MP3 players, the top 5 are made by Apple, and iPods make up 4 of the 6 top positions on the chart, including the first two spots. The number one electronics device, incidentally, is a 30 GB black iPod that--you guessed it--competes directly with the Zune.
In the months leading up to the Zune's release, Microsoft handled its PR as if it were a badly-made movie. Rather than seed the technical press with pre-release Zune units, Microsoft's PR company decided to provide Zunes only to music bloggers and four mainstream news agencies in advance of its release. Others wishing to review the Zune didn't receive Zune devices until the day before its public release, making effective reviews virtually impossible. Since that time, Microsoft hasn't received a positive review yet: Everyone who's gotten their hands on one of these devices has declared it an abject failure, including, not coincidentally, yours truly: My review is now available on the SuperSite for Windows. It ain't pretty.