Daniel Eran Dilger
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Will Nokia Rescue Microsoft’s Zune? Haha No.

Daniel Eran Dilger
Windows enthusiast blogs are atwitter with the news that mobile giant Nokia is considering a partnership with Microsoft to install the Zune Marketplace software on its phones, a move they hope will pull Microsoft’s MP3 player out of its doldrums and make it a contender that can rival the iPod. There’s a few bricks missing from this load however.
Make. Believe.
The reports all hinge on a post made by Zune fansite Zunescene, which cited an anonymous, “well placed source within Microsoft” as the basis for its suggestion that Nokia was not just considering a partnership, but already working with the Zune team to get Microsoft’s Zune-only music storefront working on its mobile phones.

Neither Microsoft nor Nokia have officially made any comment on the idea, and the Zunescene site has never before presented any credible insider information from Microsoft employees. Cited comments from the source sounded suspiciously like a Magic 8 Ball. The development timeline? “It’s too soon to say!”

The main problem with this story is that Microsoft doesn’t exactly keep secrets. The original Zune was unveiled many months before it was made available; the industry knew it was going to be a rewarmed Toshiba Gigabeat long before it hit the shelf. Details of the second model were also leaked out months in advance, as was its new software features, which were leaked so forcefully that there wasn’t much left in the can once it actually appeared.

The simple fact is that Microsoft and Apple have completely opposite strategies for launching their new products. Apple uses the media to build anticipation through secrecy, while Microsoft uses the press to blow out vapor to hide reality. Microsoft doesn’t have secrets, it has optimistic roadmaps enshrouded in nebulous clouds of vapor.

Apple is to Secrets as Microsoft is to Vapor.
Apple characteristically refuses to provide any advance details on new products and then creates dramatic launch hype by pulling the curtain off products that exceed most observers’ expectations. That’s why Apple has earned a reputation as being cantankerous and antagonistic with rumor sites; Apple sues to stop advanced leaks because they destroy its ability to launch surprise attacks. When details leak, critics can feign being wholly unimpressed by what they knew to be in the pipeline, and simply reset their expectations to something well beyond unreasonable.

In stark contrast, Microsoft typically floats vaporware concepts for new products months or years in advance of their actual launch. These often suggest capabilities that will not actually be delivered. It then allows and encourages its sprawling ‘burbs of pundits to make giddy predictions about the low, low price and amazing features this new promised concept will bring to the market.

Once the obscuring power of the vapor is completely exhausted, Microsoft typically rolls out an imitative, expensive, unfinished product that the pundits then have to make excuses for until it either suffocates the competition (as its new products often did in the 90s) or falls out of sight and into oblivion (as about half of its products did in the 90s, and as most do today).

Microsoft’s Cloud isn’t Servers.
For a list of examples of Microsoft’s vapor-billowing train to oblivion, look no further than the last several years of CES announcements:

2000: Microsoft TV, WinCE smartphone
2001: Xbox, Ultimate TV, and Windows Powered, an umbrella term for various WinCE devices
2002: Mira Windows Powered Smart Displays and Freestyle (aka Windows XP Media Center PCs)
2003: Media Center PC, Tablet PC, SPOT watches; the “Video iPod” Media2Go is delayed until mid 2004
2004: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004, and Portable Media Center devices announced the previous year
2005: Digital Entertainment Anywhere vapor
2006: Xbox 360, Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Center devices
2007: Windows Vista, Windows Home Server
2008: HD-DVD (scrubbed last minute), Surface, Zune, more Windows Home Server.

CES: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Scratching the Surface of Microsoft’s New Table PC
Lessons from the Death of HD-DVD
Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War
The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile

Searching for Success
The only successful product that can be salvaged from Microsoft’s consumer shipwreck of the last decade has been the Xbox line, which has cost Microsoft many billions every year, and is now approaching obsolescence and a sharp downturn in sales before it can even turn any profit.

There’s no evidence of secrets anywhere, just lots of vaporware concepts that either never made it into the real world (Mira), roam the earth as undead zombies (Windows Mobile, Windows Media Center, WHS, Vista), died after being exposed to realities the market (Microsoft TV, SPOT, HD-DVD), or linger on as incomplete vaporware ghosts (Surface).

One can also make lists of Microsoft’s abandoned software offerings and service plans, most of which were imitations of the competition. Microsoft pulled the plug on its Live Search Books and Live Search Academic programs (copycats of Google’s Book Search) in May after scanning millions of works. And of course it did something similar after finding out it couldn’t earn a quick return on its efforts to clone Apple’s QuickTime with ActiveMovie, Surround Video, DirectShow, and then Active Authoring Format.

Microsoft's Plot to Kill QuickTime

Microsoft’s Plot to Kill QuickTime
Video Game Consoles 2007: Wii, PS3 and the Death of Microsoft’s Xbox 360

Behold: the Apple clone two years behind.
The Apple-rumor report on Microsoft’s supposed partnership with Nokia is ridiculous simply for the fact that if Microsoft had any sort of announcements that might possibly create any glimpse of good news for its stillborn Zune music player, it wouldn’t be holding them back. Microsoft desperately needs some distractive vapor to obscure the fact that it has been trailing Apple by at least two years at every step of the game.

Games: Microsoft advertised the concept of Zune gaming well over a year ago, and there’s still nothing to show. Apple launched iPod games in 2006. It’s now offering console games downloadable over the air from major developers on its mobile WiFi platform. If Microsoft released gaming today, it would already be more than two years behind. But it hasn’t.

Podcasting: Microsoft released its Zune podcast listings so late in the game it had to call them… podcasts. That term was invented in 2004 by publishing pioneers, and the technology was added to iTunes in 2005. Apple announced it had no trademark claim on the term in late 2006, and Microsoft launched its own podcast directory for the Zune in November 2007. Two years behind (and some change).

Partnerships: Apple pioneered links with Nike, Starbucks, Audible, all the major music labels and movie studios, indie distributors, and hardware accessory makers, even including MP3 rival Creative. Microsoft has yet to forge any significant partnerships with the Zune. And who’d want to marry a cad who formerly beat up its PlaysForSure wives and left them for dead (including Creative)? That was just two years ago!

WiFi Music Store: Back in March, Francois Ruault, directeur de la division grand public of Microsoft France, was unashamed in leaking to the press the story that Microsoft would release its third generation Zune player in Europe at the end of 2009, along with a WiFi music store like Apple’s. That’s two years behind, and frankly, WTF?

Video: Apple’s fourth generation iPod gained the ability to do video output in 2004, and the subsequent model could actually play back full motion video on screen. The original Zune, released a year later with a larger screen purportedly intended for watching video, lacked the ability play most standard video formats, requiring an ages-long transcoding process first. The following year, Microsoft’s new flash based Zune was released without video output at all, driving Microsoft years back into the past compared to the video Nano that shipped at the same time.

Touch: Microsoft’s enthusiast minions tried to equate the $10,000 Surface bathtub of scanners and projectors with the consumer-priced, handheld iPhone last year, but Microsoft is only officially promising to copy some of the iPhone’s software features in its Windows Mobile 7, also scheduled for the end of 2009. That’s well beyond two years behind.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 05 200805081642-1

Zune Sales Still In the Toilet
Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing
From Vista to Zune: Why Microsoft Can’t Sell to Consumers
Microsoft : vers un portail de contenus mobiles Zune

But I Digress!
Is it perchance possible that Microsoft could leverage Nokia’s dominance of the international phone market to get its Zune Marketplace running in more places than Apple’s WiFi iTunes Store, and subsequently pole vault its Zune failure and its iPhone-humbled Windows Mobile platform into a premier spot? Apart from being too tasty of a concept for Microsoft to keep under wraps, there’s additional reason for laughing at the idea.

The most obvious is that Nokia is a Microsoft competitor! Yes, sometimes companies do deals with their seeming arch-rivals. Apple and Microsoft have forged agreements and partnerships on Office, OOXML, and Exchange ActiveSync. Microsoft licensed Adobe’s Flash for Windows Mobile, a direct competitor to its own (albeit unfinished) Silverlight. And Nokia is already joined at the hip with rival Sony Ericsson in the Symbian software partnership. However, each of those partnerships is an example of a give and take deal.

Nokia is already trying to establish its own Ovi portal as a mobile music store. It needs Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace as much as it needs another Symbian virus. Not only is the Zune Marketplace a sleepy, deserted mall with no customers and scant merchandise, but it has absolutely zero traction (or attraction) in Europe or other markets where Nokia sells its phones. The Zune is only sold in the US, where Nokia has minimal uptake. Adding the Zune Marketplace to its phones would do nothing for Nokia apart from making its own store look sidelined and associating the company with another megafailure brand. Nokia already has NGage for that.

Further, Nokia’s Symbian OS is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, and there is no love lost between them. Nokia can only be irate over Sony Ericsson’s jumping into bed with Windows Mobile in an attempt to deliver the XPERIA X1 as its heir to take on the iPhone. Nokia itself has also taken clear steps away from Symbian, but in the direction of Linux, not Microsoft. So why would Nokia be at all interested in promoting Microsoft’s rival mobile operating system at its own expense, with nothing to show in return apart from some embarrassment?

It isn’t of course. There is however, another mobile platform that is interested in teaming up with Microsoft’s Zune to advance the prospects of both. The next article will take a look at this white knight, and whether it’s likely to actually offer any help.

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

Like reading RoughlyDrafted? Share articles with your friends, link from your blog, and subscribe to my podcast (oh wait, I have to fix that first). It’s also cool to submit my articles to Digg, Reddit, or Slashdot where more people will see them. Consider making a small donation supporting this site. Thanks!

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    B…b…b…b…but the Zune Phone! It will save all! ;)

  • elppa

    Hi Dan,

    Great to see you back writing articles! Hope you enjoyed your holidays in Europe.

    Just a small correction/addition:

    “Microsoft advertised the concept of Zune gaming well over a year ago, and there’s still nothing to show. Apple launched iPod games in 2006. It’s now offering console games downloadable over the air from major developers on its mobile WiFi platform.”

    Should read:

    “Microsoft advertised the concept of Zune gaming well over a year ago, and there’s still nothing to show. Apple launched iPod games in 2006. It’s now offering console games downloadable over the air from major developers on its mobile WiFi platform and taking 30% of all revenue generated.”

  • lmasanti

    Congratulations, Dan. This are the best haikus I ever read on company descriptions!

    “Apple uses the media to build anticipation through secrecy, while Microsoft uses the press to blow out vapor to hide reality.”

    “Microsoft doesn’t have secrets, it has optimistic roadmaps enshrouded in nebulous clouds of vapor.”

    As a side effect, we should reconsider who is trying to build a Reality Distorsion Field.
    Well, we know that “Microsoft promises; Apple (Jobs) delivers”.

  • MikieV

    “Should read:

    … and taking 30% of all revenue generated.”

    Why not?

    Key words are “revenue generated”.

    Is that 70% from sales via Apple less than whatever percentage you would get selling through some other site, or the 100% of selling it yourself?

    I didn’t think so.

  • lmasanti

    “Should read:

    … and taking 30% of all revenue generated.”

    Handango starts at 40% off!

    “or the 100% of selling it yourself?”

    First, you have to pay up front for hosting and wait up to buyers come… “revenue generated”?

    You can also state that “Apple offers you to pay them only 30% of your decided price to give you the most amaizing promoting site and captive market”!

    Ask if Zune Marketplace can do the same!

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    A lot of *Mac* developers would take that 70/30 deal for the huge exposure it gets you.

    It may well be the best way to start out for a small outfit on any platform. No need to even set up your own webstore or serial number check.

  • lmasanti

    I would make a wonderfull article from Dan to show up the “pros and cons” of all the cell-phones-apps stores in place (and the others that are coming).
    Maybe it would also be worthwhile to include a “do it yourself” store (of course, with provider like Amazon or Google).

  • dicklacara

    @John Muir

    Just to add to your points, Apple supplies:
    — Copy Protection
    — Credit Card Processing & pays fees
    — Merchant Account
    — Distribution
    — Updates
    — Redistribution of lost or broken apps
    — 24/7 NoStop Shopping
    — Shelf Space (marketing) in one of the most popular stores in the world

    Back in the late 90’s I had a merchant account– it cost about $1,000 to set up and you had to maintain a $25,000 balance with the bank (I suspect it costs a lot more today). This, alone, would make it very difficult for a small developer to sell phone apps online.

  • dicklacara

    Ya’ know, it would be great if Apple opened an Indie music store within the iTunes store where unsigned artists could sell their music and music videos.

    This could have a similar enrollment & commission setup to the app store. It would allow up and coming artists an easy way to get started– they’d get 70%, they wouldn’t need to record a full CD, and sign their rights away to a recording label or someone like CDBaby.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ dicklacara

    There was some speculation about Apple doing just that – and becoming a record label themselves – around the time Apple Corps finally settled with them over their tedious argument. Ever since then however, we’ve been short of Beatles on iTunes news and indeed anything else about Apple skipping the middle man.

    iTunes is of course a compromise between Apple and the major record labels. The DRM famously only exists because 3 of them continue to demand it. So I can’t say I can see Apple really turning the tables with such a risky move any time soon.

    But once those majors are really falling apart some years from now, having lost all of their bargaining power … well … all bets are off!

  • lmasanti

    “But once those majors are really falling apart some years from now,…”

    Forget it! Evil lives forever!

  • The Mad Hatter

    There is however, another mobile platform that is interested in teaming up with Microsoft’s Zune to advance the prospects of both.

    You mean there’s someone stupid enough to do this? Sheesh.

  • scarface_74

    An independent artist can already get about 60 to 65% of the price of music sold. They can go through cdbaby and let them handle all of the work.

  • greendave

    Great to have you back. Fun article and agree the idea of you doing one on iPhone Apps store vs the Rest.

    Shame about 1st Comment from Rich – I followed up one of his links on Xbox profitability and it said “Xbox had made first-ever yearly profits – of $426 million, up from its nearly $2 billion total loss the year prior”. Glad I don’t make profits like that – just another 3 years and it should be back in the black! Doubt Xbox will ever make money as it will not be selling long enough.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    @ dicklacara: Apple does put anyone’s music in iTunes. You can be your own label. You just sign up and submit your music and Apple sends you checks.

    For people who don’t want to do this themselves, there are a number of services that manage the relationship with iTunes (it does take some time to set up) and act as an indie label for the artist, often for a minimal flat fee ($99 I think). So it’s a lot like the Apps Store already.

    CDBaby is one way to get your music into iTunes, and does not involve signing away your rights to your own music. It’s really only the megalabels that do this, and the reason they’re in business is because they do find talent and spend big bucks promoting it. So while everyone hates the RIAA, there is no shortage of musicians lining up to sign deals with them.

    What is interesting is that iTunes and even self-distribution are becoming viable. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got rich selling their CDs out of their apartment, with no big record deal.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    [Reposted after I inadvertently marked this as spam]

    Rich on 08.09.08 at 4:52 am

    “Daniel, To the casual observer, your articles look well-research, factual and based on reason logic. However, any time you talk about anything I know a lot about I realise that your articles are based on half-thruths, FUD and ignorance.

    I’ll just focus on one example…”

    “[the Xbox 360] is now approaching obsolescence and a sharp downturn in sales before it can even turn any profit.”

    Oh really?

    Xbox games technically superior to their PS3 counter-parts: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=137829&page=4

    Sales are still strong:

    Xbox division turns in a profit: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=19475

    It’s a bit over the top to call me out for half-truths and then to make a series of suggestions that are either irrelevant, inaccurate, or incomplete.

    Microsoft’s Xbox console is not just competing against the PS3, its competing for attention for itself. The 360 is now three years old, while the original Xbox was discontinued after just four years on the market. So it is unquestionably “approaching obsolescence.”

    Further, there has been “a sharp downturn in sales.” Last year, the 360 saw “a major drop in sales by 3.7 million units year over year,” as I pointed out back in January (time for an update!) in Video Game Consoles 2007: Wii, PS3 and the Death of Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

    And lastly, turning a minor operational profit after years of massive losses is not the same as selling something profitably. You should also take a closer look at Microsoft’s earnings reports, because while the company arranges things to make it look like they earned money on the Xbox division, they’ve also hid billions of dollars in branding, R&D, marketing, etc in that “Other” category.

  • dicklacara

    do you have a link or reference on how an Indie signs up for iTunes Store? I researched this several months back for a singer/composer/musician friend and found nothing.

    The friend, Sheena Melwani, has 17 videos on YouTube


    and I have been helping her get some Video Podcasts up (not yet accessible through iTunes).

    But, what she really wants to do is publish as an Indie.

    I looked into CDBaby, but it has some disadvantages:
    –you have to accumulate songs to release an album (CD) rather than one ofs
    –In Feb, I ran the numbers based on CDBaby’s reported earnings and accounts. It seems the average CDBaby published artist earns significantly less than $1,000.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    What really clouds the issue in the “console wars” is just what a flop the PS3 is being, as well as the also-ran status of the 360. Everyone’s used to seeing a two horse race there, but it’s not been like that at all of late.

    Nintendo have just blown the competition away. (Annoying for me, as I honestly don’t like the Wii and its kind of games at all, but it’s very obviously worked.)

    Frankly, Nintendo needed this badly. Unlike MS and Sony, the gaming market really is their bread and butter. Ever since the N64, they’ve been stuck as a niche player in consoles until the Wii. The platform which has really kept them alive is of course their heavily dominant portables.

    Let’s just say I wouldn’t count on Nintendo selling more handhelds in a few years than Apple. Although credit to them for being one of the few out there who really do use the vertical model in tech. I guess they could have some phone / browser / touch / tablet in their skunk works. But it’s a stretch competing with Apple on their home turf for anyone right now.

  • nat

    “What really clouds the issue in the “console wars” is just what a flop the PS3 is being, as well as the also-ran status of the 360. Everyone’s used to seeing a two horse race there, but it’s not been like that at all of late.”

    I don’t know, the gaming industry in general seems to be doing pretty darn well and each system has a decent installed base. Wii’s are flying off the shelves and I’m kind of glad. After trading in my GameCube for an Xbox last gen, I loved the variety: Oddworld, Halo, Ninja Gaiden, Max Payne, and my favorite, the Splinter Cell series. But by the end of its stunted 4 year life, and not being a PS2 fan (mainly because most of my top games were multi-platform) I seriously felt bored with gaming for the first time.

    When Nintendo finally announced what the Wii was, I dropped my 360 pre-order and even camped out for the little white box. :D Since then I’ve only finished SSBB; Red Steel sucked (though it was exciting and fun at the start), Zelda put me to sleep (mainly after I received a PS2 and played Shadow of the Colossus), and I simply haven’t picked up a title for it since finally buying a 360 this past February. Wii really doesn’t lack good games, but when I have to choose between Mario Kart and The Orange Box, I can’t resist the latter. With that said, the Wii does handle FPSs better than either of its competitors, there just aren’t many available yet.

    The PS3 is also catching up in sales and this is certainly the best year to get one. Great games, improved online play (that can now rival Xbox Live), and trophies (a much cooler and deeper reward system, IMO).

    Meanwhile at E3 this year, Microsoft took most of its press conference to steal concepts left and right from Sony, Nintendo, and even Apple to a lesser extent. They now have a sizable portion of their base of “core gamers,” like myself, in opposition of their big fall update that promises to Wii-ify the console with lame Avatars. They open up the ability to install games to internal storage…and then requires the game disc to be in the tray!? They drop the subscription fee for Live…only on the PC!? They require novice, independent XNA to charge $2-$10…and will likely raise the price of most XBLA titles to $15!!!???

    None of this will help 360 unit sales. Sometime next year, I have little doubt they’ll hint at their next console to be released either late next year or in 2010. Sony and Nintendo, on the other hand, won’t need to release new systems ’til the end of 2011 or 2012, maybe later.

    If that happens, can you say…Dreamcasted?

  • addicted44

    Hey Dan… good to see you back.

    Btw, you make a strong case here for why Nokia would not adopt the Zune marketplace. However, you miss out on (or maybe havent yet) making the case as to why even if Nokia adopts the Zune marketplace, it wont help MS any.

    I am quite confident, that quite like Apple, MS hardly makes any money of the Zune marketplace. It exists to support the Zune. So if the marketplace is available on Nokia phones, that is even LESS reason for someone to buy a Zune. So instead of a Zune owner, who is straddled with 1000’s of dollars worth of DRM’ed Marketplace music going out and buying a Zune Nano (I forget what its called, its such a non-entity), he can just go ahead and buy a Nokia phone instead.

    So how does this deal (if true) even help MS?

  • Pingback: This Week in Smartphone Schadenfreude, August 9th Edition | The iPhone Blog()

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    “How do I become a signed iTunes artist or label?
    Apply here. Once you complete the iTunes Music Store online application, you will receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt of your application and instructions on how to proceed.”


  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ addicted44

    Underpants elves!

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ nat

    Gaming itself is indeed still in great shape. Sony and MS are just proving that it’s perfectly possible to heavily invest in a rich market, and while aiming for lucrative future dominance, wind up with a flop and a loss.

    In MS’s case, twice.

    Nintendo are smart. They do this little old thing Steve Jobs knows all about and sell everything at a profit. That’s how they can flourish, turn out hardware and software which at least for a fair few seems genius, and all without needing to rely on Nintendo branded toasters, TV’s, cameras, music players, mice … etc. etc.

    Well, all right, I admit it: I bought Mario Paint back in the day so they did do at least one mouse!

    But back on topic: right now the big money in gaming is *software*. The publishers are making a mint. This generation of consoles has finally all-but-completely plugged the gaping piracy hole, so it really is happy days for big studios and small outfits alike with DLC / XBLA and so forth.

    Yet Sony and MS keep finding their investment piling into a furnace. Especially when bearing in mind how inevitable it is that the 360 will be the first of this generation of machines to be replaced.

    My gut tells me that ubiquitous handheld computing is going to be the future of portable gaming. The iPhone has the early lead there and will take Herculean effort to catch up.

    Statistics also tell me that the Windows PC is a fading platform for gaming overall, with steep decline in retail game sales for many years and only some of that gap plugged by Valve’s inventive Steam. (The iTunes of Windows gaming.)

    So the console should be in a golden age. Maybe it is. But MS and Sony are too busy trying to strangle each other to benefit from it.

  • beanie

    Examples of Nokia and Microsoft co-operating:

    -Nokia ported QT GUI Framework to Windows CE

    -Nokia licensed Windows CE for a GPS device

    -Nokia licensed Microsoft PlayReady DRM

    -Nokia licensed Microsoft ActiveSync

    So they do co-operate with each other once in a while.

  • nat

    @ John Muir,

    I see what you’re saying. Seems Sony has more of an excuse for it, what with the PS3 using the new, higher capacity, and more modern Blu-ray disc format in contrast to Microsoft’s comical half-hearted support of HD-DVD. We needed another disc format like a hole in the head, but if you’re gonna make an HD console, use a format that has a chance of lasting ’til the inevitable move to full-on digital distribution. MS now pretends they’re all about digital distribution after HD-DVD bit the dust, yet their low-end Core/Arcade SKU only recently got a 256MB memory card; that’s half the amount of flash storage the Wii comes with standard! :D And they force the use of overpriced proprietary hard drives unlike the PS3’s use of standard 2.5″ laptop drives.

    I agree about Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch platform providing some overdue competition to Nintendo and Sony’s dedicated handhelds. It offers better graphics, more screen real estate, and a more advanced touch interface than the DS. Comparable graphics and better multimedia functionality than the PSP (which Sony once billed as the next gen Walkman). Then there’s the motion sensors, potential for rumble (don’t know if the SDK allows access to the vibration motors used for silent mode), and the App Store, which enables developers to patch games easily and gamers to download games over the air. Just a few weeks after the App Store’s launch and its already got impressive games and Id’s John Carmack praising the system and suggesting he could make a multimillion dollar game if the market was ready for such a thing.

    PC gaming should really be identified as Windows gaming. Thanks to Microsoft’s monopolistic position on the desktop and their use of proprietary DirectX, Linux and Mac gaming can hardly compete. Fortunately, Apple recognizes the shift to consoles because these dedicated systems offer…a very cohesive, Mac-like experience. :O I’ve heard so much anti-Apple propaganda from Xbox fans who never seem to understand they’re using a vertically integrated system too, and not a great one either.

    Valve’s Steam is pretty awesome. Too bad they’ve only made Windows games and ports that only work well on the Xbox. Their games are so deep and smart, I don’t get it.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @ dicklacara:

    “I looked into CDBaby, but it has some disadvantages:
    –you have to accumulate songs to release an album (CD) rather than one ofs”

    That’s actually not quite true. If you want to use CDBaby to release a single on iTunes, you can just make an “album” with one song on it.

    Of course, given how long it takes for everything to go through, it makes more sense to wait until you have a full album of songs before you submit anything. My band uses CDBaby for digital distribution and it took over three months to get our music up on iTunes (and that was the fastest out of anyone else!).

  • dicklacara


    That’s good to know– I perused the CDBaby site and wasn’t able to see how to release a single.

    Does CDBaby produce enough $ to make the effort worthhwile?

  • Pingback: This Week in Smartphone Schadenfreude, August 9th Edition()

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    Sony’s choice of processor for the PS3 was also something of a blunder, at least for the first year or two of the console’s life. The Cell is technically impressive, but hard to program for, even harder to make good API for (and Sony aren’t strong at that from what Carmack’s said of all their systems) and of course came out with horrendous yields.

    Back when MS announced they were moving to PowerPC for the 360, I wondered what this meant for Mac gaming. Remember that this was before Steve Jobs’ shocker of an announcement about the Intel transition! It seems in retrospect that MS went in just the wrong direction. The original Xbox had the advantage that it was fairly generic components bundled together. Imagine how much easier it would have been for MS to just use Core processors and x86 DirectX!

    (No need to emulate original Xbox games for starters. Many of which still don’t work. But fortunately for MS their users don’t seem to care.)

    An x86 console – like the Xbox in its day but benefiting from Intel’s advances – would be my top suggestion to any hardware maker who dares play dice in that market. The closest thing to it right now is of course the little old AppleTV … but let’s not get caught up in that old rumour! (AppleTV 2.0: the tuner / DVR / console edition. Two iPod touches provided in the box for controllers! :D)

  • dicklacara

    @John Muir

    Maybe only 1 iPod Touch in the box (Wii comes with only 1 WiiMote). But Apple needs to add IR to the Touch so it can control the TV and other existent A/V devices.

  • nat

    dicklacara said:

    “Maybe only 1 iPod Touch in the box (Wii comes with only 1 WiiMote). But Apple needs to add IR to the Touch so it can control the TV and other existent A/V devices.”

    Why does Apple need to add IR to the iPod touch? By your logic, it shouldn’t. The wiimote doesn’t allow the control of TVs or A/V equipment, nor do 360 or PS3 controllers. I don’t think any console has had such functionality.

  • nat

    John Muir,

    I question how “hard” it is to program a PS3 game vs. a 360 title. I think it has more to do with DirectX vs. OpenGL. As far as I understand it the 360 uses an API rather similar to what DirectX coders use on the Windows PC while OpenGL ES isn’t nearly as prevalent. I don’t know how Sony addresses it, but just about every first-party published games looks much more impressive to me than most of what I can play on my 360. With good looking games like LittleBigPlanet and Killzone 2 coming to the system two years into its life, perhaps their technological investments will pay off.

  • Pingback: Microsoft’s Zune, Vista, and Windows Mobile 7 Strategy vs the iPhone — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    Games are programmed in both the 3D layer (DirectX or OpenGL) and in the general API. I’m no game dev so I’m probably mangling the terms, but in essence you have a CPU and a GPU to program for. The sweetest graphics card in the world – even supported by powerful development software – can’t do anything without equivalent backup from the main processor. For every object, texture and effect you see onscreen: general processing has to have already been done to deliver it to the GPU ready for rendering. And then there’s core game logic, handling other players, physics, sound, rumble, etc. etc.

    My comment was about the PS3 using the Cell processor. Cell is a very unusual design for this kind of use. It has a fairly weak middle, surrounded by several strong satellite cores. (I know I’m mangling terms now!) If you run traditional code on a Cell, you get poor performance compared with a more traditional processor like that in the 360. But if you take the time to optimise your code – and this is such a change it really means *redesign* your code – then the Cell suddenly jumps into life and can pull off extraordinary things. Carmack was talking about this some years ago when id were first introduced to the developer tools for both platforms. The 360 was more traditional, and so easier to get things done on from the get-go. The PS3 meanwhile clearly had deeper promise, but he’d always found the traditional PS2 fiddly to develop on thanks to less than stellar developer tools by Sony.

    In other words: the PS3 has indeed proven to be great for platform exclusives. But for all those titles with simultaneous releases, it’s often easier for the 360’s port to look and feel better than the PS3’s as the 360’s is often completed first and can be finessed for longer.

    One last thing: GPU’s. From what I heard back when this was a hot talking point: the 360’s GPU is stronger than the PS3’s. And yes, you can use DirectX much like on Windows and therefore make best use of your (presumably brought up in Windows game work) dev team. As soon as you want to play outside of Microsoft’s systems however, you absolutely must use OpenGL. And when you’re talking PS3, it’s definitely worth the time to learn how to use that Cell. It can more than make up for some of the PS3’s other weaknesses.

    Once upon a time, we in the Mac world drooled at the thought of Cell based Macs. It is a PowerPC architecture. The chip is certainly capable of many a task, but we’d *still* be stuck on G4’s in our PowerBooks! I think Apple may have just made the right choice…

  • nat

    John Muir,

    Ah, right, I see what you’re saying. The Cell and Sony’s lackluster developer tools are the main problem.

    On the quality of multi-platform games, it appears as though some developers care about code optimization while others don’t. EA’s COD4 looks and works fine on both platforms. Rockstar’s GTA4’s colors apparently looked more vibrant on PS3. Valve’s Orange Box was crudely ported to PS3, though TF2’s online didn’t work well on either console. BioShock is apparently gonna look better and offer exclusive PS3 content.

    I don’t even have a PS3, but being a 360 owner, I really hope in the next few years Sony’s console becomes the lead programming platform. All games for both platforms would presumably look better and perform almost equally well on each, creating stronger competition between the two.

  • hermitcrab

    Sorry for intruding on the thread, since this has nothing to do with RD’s theme, but a number of you are discussing iTunes and CDBaby.

    I have music on both CDBaby and iTunes. The issue of how much money is made in either place really has little to do with the venue. It has all to do with the promotion the artist does on their own. You’ve got to play shows, you’ve got to push your myspace profile and build your community, you’ve got to do things to build a base of committed fans who will buy your product.

    CDBaby is the best tool for independent artists I’ve ever found. It cost me $30 to put an album on CDBaby. I was able to select to have my music included in 20 different digital distribution sites, including iTunes. On top of that they process sales for me at shows. I was able to get a card swiper to use at shows through them with no merchant account. They take a larger share of the profit than a normal merchant account, but I need no collateral or minimum purchases to have it. I like CDBaby and iTunes both but for different audiences.

    No sales venue is going to guarantee sales. Just because iTunes has more eyeballs than CDBaby doesn’t mean more sales. More sales will only come from more exposure and hard self-promotion.

    Good luck to your friend!

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    “Partnerships: Apple pioneered links with Nike, Starbucks, Audible, all the major music labels and movie studios, indie distributors, and hardware accessory makers, even including MP3 rival Creative. Microsoft has yet to forge any significant partnerships with the Zune.”

    Doesn’t Microsoft also have partnerships with “the major music labels” for music in the Zune Marketplace? There are also a small selection of gear from third-party hardware accessory makers for the Zune.

    Perhaps that section should read something like this:

    “Partnerships: Apple pioneered links with Nike, Starbucks, Audible, all the major music labels and movie studios, indie distributors, and hardware accessory makers, even including MP3 rival Creative. Microsoft, normally the king of partnership deals, appears to have found much more difficulty in establishing partnerships for the Zune after burning its previous PlaysForSure partners (including Creative) two years ago. Apart from the major music labels, who will now ironically jump at almost any digital licencing deal now that they feel so threatened by iTunes, the best Microsoft can do is scrape up a tiny selection of third party cases and speaker systems.”

  • Pingback: iPhone Blogga » Blog Archive » This Week in Smartphone Schadenfreude, August 9th Edition()

  • Pingback: Five More iPhone Myths — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • Pingback: Santiago Leon News Site » Blog Archive » Microsoft’s Zune crashes as iPod sales grow()

  • Pingback: Microsoft’s Zune crashes as iPod sales grow — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()