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10/31/2007
02:29 PM
Michael Singer
Michael Singer
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The Zune Universe Expands, Where's The Bling?

If Microsoft wants to even catch a sliver of iPod's market share, it's going to have to build up its base of third-party accessories for its Zune music player... Oh, wait. That's just what they did this week.

If Microsoft wants to even catch a sliver of iPod's market share, it's going to have to build up its base of third-party accessories for its Zune music player... Oh, wait. That's just what they did this week.Microsoft on Tuesday touted 60 new accessories made by nearly two dozen partners for its second-generation Zune. Most of the items will be on store shelves starting Nov. 13, Microsoft said. Some of the fashion items include:

  • Speaker docks from Altec Lansing, iHome, and Kicker
  • Cases from Belkin, Case-mate, DLO, Incipio, and Speck
  • Cables, FM transmitters, and car kits from Belkin, DLO, Monster, and Kicker

Is that it? What a snore-fest. The look and style of these add-ons are just about as exciting as the Zune itself.

I mean, really, how does Microsoft expect to sell Zune without some serious bling bling to add on to it? Apple's iPod wasn't always a fashion statement. Even though Jobs, Johnny Ive, and Co. managed to get big-name musicians like Moby, Seal, and U2's Bono to endorse the device, the little white headphone thing and the countless number of accessories is what really helped iPod shine.

There really is no comparison between iPod and Zune. Apple's own accessory site includes an armband, a plug in for your Nike sneakers, and an assortment of neon-colored socks for your iPod... Socks! Does Microsoft have socks for Zune? I don't think they would even consider it.

People dress up like iPods -- and iPhones -- for Halloween. I don't think anyone will dress like a Zune without someone asking if they are the new iPod touch or perhaps the new brown iPod.

Accessory manufacturer Griffin has made a mint off its iPod-based products. And that's just a fraction of all of the ornaments, cases, skins, and add-ons made overseas.

My favorite iPod accessory this week is the Tadpole Kids iPod Case. For $20, your kid can handle your video iPod in a ruggedized case that protects the player. Very cool.

So what's Microsoft supposed to do? Well, they could be happy with just a small portion of the market. Or, they could evangelize the platform beyond music. There's Wi-Fi to be exploited, for example. The Zune could be a new collaboration tool for the office.

But IMHO what Microsoft needs is a showcase place for the accessory makers. If you've been to Macworld over the last few years, you've no doubt noticed that it looks more like an iPod conference than a traditional Macintosh gathering. Outside of CES, which can be overwhelming, there aren't that many places outside of Microsoft's walls for Zune aficionados to shine.

So here's hoping that Microsoft can soak up some of that iPod accessory love. It would really help the handful of people who own a Zune stand out against a sea of white.

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