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What can we learn from the Zune HD/Zune Marketplace 4.0 Launch?

With the Zune HD and 4.0 release of the Zune Marketplace yesterday, I was a little shocked to say the least...

I have a Zune30 - the first generation Zune device - but have applied all software and firmware updates as they have launched with a fair amount of success. I like my Zune, which I primarily use for podcasts, audiobooks, (and especially podiobooks) while on-the-go, but I do of course use as a mobile photo album and something to drive the voices out of my head rock out to while I code.

It gets the job done... but it's first-gen and now several years old. I will, however, be picking up a new DMP soon - my birthday is in October - and have had my eyes on the Zune HD since the first rumors of it hit the web months ago.

As an individual consumer, I'm a "Zune shop". I have a technology investment in the device, the accessories, the media that I've purchased FOR the Zune, etc.

And as an individual consumer, I'm treated with news of just how much this device will rock. Hardware specification lists aside - which are a quite impressive read, mind you - my use (or desired use) of the device has changed. The first-gen device is bulky compared to something like the Apple iPod Touch, and is thus while not more difficult to take on the road with me (as I've been taking the same device on the road for years now), I can see that there have been marked improvements in the technology - making it faster, sleeker, and more capable.

This really becomes apparent when you look at the usage experience with today's DMPs - they're becoming more mobile computers than mobile music players. It's almost expected now to be able to install an application from a library of available apps - such as Apple's App Store - and carry a single device instead of a phone, a music player, a notebook, and something to slack off with while you're in an airport terminal waiting for your flight.

To their credit, Apple has really set the stage here... as far as the UX goes. It's not the little nuances with the iPhone/Touch platform, but the ability to - within a few clicks - install whatever application you want on your device. They've allowed their customer to master and maintain their environment, but more importantly how they intend to use the device day-to-day.

And the numbers speak to that. During Apple's "It's Only Rock-and-Roll" event, it was cited that over 20 million Touches had been sold (also mentioned, 30 million iPhones). More importantly - and from the same event - it was cited that there are over 20 thousand games available in the Apple App Store. 20,000+ options for a consumer.

So, as it was rumored that Zune Marketplace 4.0 would release an app store of it's own, I was really looking forward to seeing what would be available to us "Zune shops". I wanted to see what games and applications were available to me if I ran out today and purchased a Zune HD...

Zune Marketplace 4.0 App Store -- Games

Okay - this is Microsoft, perhaps their Game section of the Zune App Store is still being worked on. So I switched over to the

Zune Marketplace 4.0 App Store -- Applications

Now, just in case you weren't paying attention: 20,000+ > 7. And the applications?! No Facebook or Twitter clients from launch date, but you give me a calculator and a MSN Weather plugin?! Talk about a consumer device market fail!

I had already seen the light via a podcast keynote on "The Future of Content Delivery" which talked to target audience adoption numbers and how content authors (in that case, authors... but it applied to code poets too!) should focus their efforts on the mass-adoption markets vs. niche markets if they want their content to be seen, used, and - ultimately - if said author wishes to be successful. But staring at a barren Zune Marketplace App Store - which, mind you, held 5 games that I already have on my Zune 30 (came with the device/firmware upgrades/etc.) - really sealed the deal for me.

You promise me solid client technology and a rich development platform, but from a consumer take you don't deliver a seemingly overwhelming number of options... and you simply fail.

So, what can we learn from this?

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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