Hell freezes over: on Zune updates
Now here’s something I wasn’t really expecting: Microsoft taking the side of the user by updating first generation Zunes with a slew of new functionality for free instead of forcing them to buy new models. As the guys at Gizmodo put it, “this is how you treat customers”.
The first generation 30GB ZuneÃ¢â‚¬â€which 1.2 million of you already purchasedÃ¢â‚¬â€is getting all the new Zune’s features. All. Sure, the new Zune is more of a half step forward than a completely new design. But Microsoft’s done something fantastic here by rewarding first gen buyers with cool new stuff that also happens to be free by software upgrade. And talk about spinÃ¢â‚¬â€ Microsoft just took a middling jump in hardware and turned it into a genuinely good move for loyalists (as well as a PR miracle). Are you paying attention Apple?
A little background on how I see Apple
A week ago I was going to write about how Apple had disappointed me with the iPhone update move (you know the one – the one that took all your 3rd party apps away) but decided not to for two main reasons: 1) everyone else was writing about it, and 2) somewhere deep inside I believed Apple would take a step back, think (different) about the whole thing, and come back in with good (great) news. Fact is, Apple didn’t reconsider their move and although I love them, I can’t help but feel a little double-crossed.
Everybody loves Apple. They build great products, push the boundaries of technology by bringing new ideas into the consumer market and understand their audience. But sometimes like say, last week, things take odd turns. Just when I thought Apple pulling the rug from under all of us iPhone lovers was enough of a surprise for this month alone, Microsoft does the right thing – they do what I would expect of the guys in Cupertino.
On rewarding customers
Here’s the thing: when you buy an iPod (bare with me for talking about Apple just a little more on a Zune story), you have no idea about its future. In fact, Apple wants you to buy an iPod now but also expects to buy a new one a year later to get the latest features. Which is all fine and great until someone does what Microsoft just did, which is reverse the rules, by rewarding customers by giving ALL existing zunes ALL the new features they’re rolling out through a software update.
And it makes sense, if you think about it. If you don’t need a new player with more storage capacity, and the hardware has the ability to support everything that’s being brought in by new models, why not stand by the customer and give them the updates anyway? You’re not going to sell the units that a share of those people would be purchasing to get the latest features, but you’re making everyone a happier customer.
Taking sides, concluding thoughts
If I were to ask you which side Microsoft usually takes between customer satisfaction and money, I’m quite sure a lot of you would say money. And if I asked the same thing about Apple, some of you might say customer satisfaction. But recent events (and this is only a week in tech) have shown how sometimes all it takes is thinking differently to really surprise us. I’m as positively surprised by the Zune updates as I am dumbfounded and disappointed by Apple not “getting” the potential of people “hacking” the iPhone. An interesting twist to the usual story of these two companies.
PS: And you know what’s funny? I don’t have a Zune but now I want to. Not because I love it more than I love my iPods, but because I have more chances of sometime in the future, Microsoft adding new life to the device through software, instead of having to buy another model.