Ceci n’est pas une Zune post

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About eight months ago I proposed the creation of a “Microsoft clock” that would track the very public timeline predictions that Microsoft executives seem to love making. (Think “spam will be eradicated within 24 months,” “our search will be better than Google within six months,” or the classic “Vista will ship in Q<mumble> of 200<cough>,” for a few easy examples.)

The specific pronouncement that interested me back in March was Steve Ballmer’s answer to the question “think you can crack the iPod market?” To wit:

It’s going to take an innovative proposition. In five years are people really going to carry two devices? One device that is their communication device, one device that is music? There’s going to be a lot of opportunities to get back in that game. We want to be in that game. Expect to see announcements from us in that area in the next 12 months.

I’m a little surprised to be saying it, but Ballmer gets a pass on this one — it’s been only eight months and I already count three announcements in this area:

  1. July 21, 2006: “There’s going to be this Zune thing, and it’s going to be totally cool. Way cooler than the iPod.”
  2. November 14, 2006: “Here’s the Zune, and it’s totally cool. Way cooler than the iPod. Look — it’s brown!”
  3. November 28, 2006: “The tepid reviews and lackluster sales numbers are all part of our plan to dominate this market.”

I guess that MS spirits were buoyed by actually making this timeline, because they immediately followed up with a new prediction: one million zunes will be sold by June. The shocker? I believe that MS will make this million Zune march. You see, as pointed out on Blackfriars’ Marketing’s blog, there are lots of ways to count sales; by hook or by “sold into retail,” Microsoft will find a way to meet this timeline. So…I guess congratulations are in order?

Bonus Content
Ina Fried is getting a fair bit of attention for documenting her search for Zunes to share tunes with on CNET. All I can do is reiterate my thoughts from Zune: welcome to the gamble:

I’m really surprised that Microsoft didn’t do more to prime the pump on this. Give Zunes away to every street-level music fiend they could find. Pay people to take Zunes to public places and share their little hearts out. Build a “Zunebox” (think jukebox) that allows Zune users to pull down songs and then install one in every Starbucks, Borders Music, and Best Buy in key markets.

Anything at all, really, to give Zunesters as many opportunities as possible to think “damn this is cool” while they grab a new track out of the ether…anything to minimize the number of times that people look for the social only to get: No nearby Zune devices found, or nearby devices have wireless turned off.