When Sean Gunn’s Kraglin gifts Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord a Microsoft Zune at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, everyone in the audience gets the joke.The now-defunct music player is synonymous with failure. It has replaced the Betamax as pop culture’s go-to punchline for the technologically illiterate. Microsoft’s Zune premiered in 2006, five years after the release of Apple’s first iPod. And although by all accounts it was an excellent device, it was not a different device.
Consumers plugged into the iPod ecosystem had no reason to disconnect. Why is it Microsoft never became a force in the music industry? The leader in home computing was always behind when it came to digital sound.
Groove is a “Failure”
Microsoft’s latest failure is its Groove Music service. The digital streaming service offered over 50 million tracks. Users could stream via apps on Windows, Xbox, Android, and iOS. Launched in 2012 under the Xbox moniker, Groove never established a customer base.
Spotify has 60 million paid subscribers. Most people who stream music do it from their cell phones, a market dominated by Apple. Considering they were already late to the market, how could Microsoft compete? On October 2, 2017, Microsoft knuckled under and announced the end of Groove Music. They are partnering with Spotify to allow users to transfer over their playlists.
Gates Admit Mistakes
In 1975 Bill Gates read about the Altair 8800 in Popular Mechanics magazine. “We realized that the [software] revolution might happen without us,” Gates once recalled. So, how did his company end up missing the digital music revolution?
Microsoft has the resources, the talent and the desire to compete in this space. But their products are always too late, and they offer nothing new to the consumer. In 2004 Microsoft launched MSN music in an attempt to compete with iTunes.
Along with music downloads, the site published articles about the music industry. By 2006 MSN music was out of business. Apple’s iconic dancing silhouette ads were selling millions of downloads per month.
Partnerships are good for both parties
The spin is upbeat from Microsoft. Announcing the demise of Groove, they said, “we’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our partnership with Spotify to bring the world’s largest music streaming service to our Groove Music Pass customers.”
And the Groove app will live on as a local music player and streaming device for OneDrive users. But until Microsoft comes to the forefront they will never be a force in the music industry. When Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper ridicules the Zune on The Big Bang Theory, his girlfriend shrugs. She responds, “what’s a Zune?”
“Exactly,” replies Sheldon.
Article by Josh Gruss – CEO of Roundhill music.