Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Zuned Out

A few years ago a New York publishers told us that 'last year we had a title that sold 2 million and was a failure.' 'How?' was our immediate reply. 'We printed 3 million.'

We now read about a device selling 2 million units and still be considered a flop? The answer is different but equally simple, its competitor reportedly averages 3,5 million units sales a month and the 2 million is over 18 months!

This latest story is about Microsoft’s attempt to capture the iPod space with its Zune. The Zune looked good, did much of the same as the iPod, but was last to the party, didn’t have the iconic design status and failed to capture the consumer ticket. Hands up how many consumers have even heard of it?

Should Microsoft just bury it and move on? Can Microsoft afford to back another loser? It may be down to how you define failure. If failure is not getting number one slot then its failed. If failure is not selling substaiul numbers, it may well be a success. The reality is that for some its top slot or nothing as top slot can dictate the direction and pace.

Some have suggested that the Zune become the ZunePhone, but lets be honest that would be like betting when the dice are stacked against you. Some now suggest that the Zune goes after Hollywood and bypasses the TV content for the richer and more lucrative Hollywood prize. If it acquired exclusive content it could become a must have, or at least a recognised brand. Others suggest that Zune Social will make the difference. Some even believe that Zune could rise from the ashes and become the new Xbox.

The reality is that Zune is not an iPod, nor is the brand sexy, iconic or going to win with today’s hand. We bet that Zune will just slip silently away to that grand mortuary in the sky where all technology failures end up.

What has this to do with book publishing? The answers is very little, other than it proves that like Microsoft did, it is easy to believe ones own rhetoric. The real test is on the streets. Some would argue that the ebook and the current batch of wannabee readers are providing just the initial skirmish and its hard to see these current offers being the decisive blow and its more likely that the winner is not even here yet.

The question is whether selling 240,000 units is a success, a failure and who's judging?

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