No, no — what’s wrong with U, Microsoft?

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…or…Just stop whining and buy the fucking XBox, bitches.

Maybe there’s just some cultural subtlety that I don’t get, but it seems a little weird to me that Microsoft is running a site that’s apparently supposed to help them figure out why the Asian market isn’t buying Xboxes hand over fist, with a marketing spin of “what’s wrong with you?”

Yes, whatswrongwithu.com is the site and the (english version) text of the site — in its entirety — is: Xbox has got it all! What more are you looking for? (Well, okay, there’s also a marketing-department generated list of things that the Xbox already offers that people can ask for. While providing their email address.)

I just don’t know what to say. Please, somebody tell me that the Xbox is marketed in Asia as the Ubox, or that “what’s wrong with u” somehow conveys a message of “please help us offer you a more appealing product” in a way that my North American perspective doesn’t grasp. Seriously, unless I’m missing something here, this is Howard Hughes-level unhinged.

Thanks to Blackfriars for the pointer.

Zune: when will the hurting stop?

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Update: Just about as I was clicking “publish,” CrunchGear published an “as definite as tips can be” tip that Microsoft plans to release a Zune-branded phone by the end of 2007 (presumably with a better name than “Zunephone”). The plot thickens!

Another Update: Microsoft employees: if you see this could you drop me a note and let me know what tool(s) you’re using to track brand? It’s impressive (and a little scary) how little time elapses between my publishing a Microsoft-related post and you guys hitting the site.

It’s nice to have something to fill the void that was created in my life when the SCO debacle got dull — there are only so many ways one can say “yep, they’re still circling the drain,” after all. But just six weeks have passed since my last Zune post, and already so much has happened…

Microsoft has officially jumped on to the Zunebox bandwagon: according to Microsoft’s business chief Chris Stephenson, the company is planning on working with retail chains to provide “filling stations” for the Zune. Let’s repeat that, shall we? They are planning on working with retail chains. As in, “haven’t even gotten far enough into the process to have anything at all to announce about it.” *

Meanwhile, Starbucks announced a couple of weeks ago that the chain will be rolling out music download stations in its stores in 2007 or early 2008. What with Starbucks already being tied up with the iTunes store, and two separate announcements from Microsoft and Starbucks, I don’t think it’s Zuneboxes that will be sitting next to the jars of biscotti, and that doesn’t bode well for Microsoft. By the time Zune “filling stations” arrive on the scene, it’s likely that either (a) the public will have reacted to opportunistic music downloads with an indifferent shrug, or (b) Microsoft will be perceived as playing catch-up. Again.

“Aha, but wait,” you say, “the Zune’s ‘filling stations’ will be able to take advantage of ‘the social’ — they’ll be able to use the Zune’s sharing capability to try out songs, which could be huge!” Well, that leads us into the next recent black eye for the Zune.

Right now it’s looking like you’ve only got about a 58% chance of being right about sharing being a useful selling point. In addition to the “3 plays or 3 days” limitation on listening to shared music, the labels got another little carve-out: an apparently significant number of songs that just can’t be shared, period. Excuse me now, while we take a little break for a special note to Microsoft:

Look — I understand that you needed to launch with access to a library of music that was at least roughly comparable to iTunes, but come on…couldn’t your lawyers get the labels to give up anything? The pitch for your launch was the ability to share music: did you really think that no one would notice that they couldn’t share a significant percentage of the music that was sitting on their Zunes?

Good to have gotten that off my chest. Moving right along, we come to another little difficulty that the Zune franchise has run across in recent weeks.

The iPhone. [Cue dramatic music.] The sluggish launch of “the Zune” has largely overshadowed the fact that Microsoft sees “Zune” as an ecosystem of interrelated offerings, not the specific PMP that was released a couple of months ago. I’m sure that Redmond would have been overjoyed to have an immediate hit, but they’re looking at the longer term.

The thing is, though, when Steve Ballmer said “In five years are people really going to carry two devices? One device that is their communication device, one device that is music?” last March, I suspect that he had checked the weather report for Hell, found that it was still hot and sunny, and taken that to mean that Apple’s real multi-function offering (yes, the Rockr just doesn’t count) was still a gleam in Steve Jobs’ eye. Oops.

So Microsoft gets to play catch-up. Again. Whenever the Zune-family phone/PIM/PMP/Web device finally hits the street, it’s inevitably going to be another round of “so how does this thing compare to Apple’s offering” in the press. At best, Microsoft will have to accept that the release of the Zunephone will lift Apple’s boat along with their own. At worst? Oh, I don’t know…say, another round of Zune launch puff pieces gone horribly, horribly wrong?

Yeah, if I were Bryan Lee I’d be taking some time to pursue personal interests, too. Microsoft isn’t out of the game by any means, but it’s going to be a brutal couple of years for the Masters of the Zuniverse.

Note: To answer the questions that are (no doubt) running through your minds at this very moment:

  • Yes, the zunebox proposal site got a surprising amount of traffic from Microsoft’s corporate netblock.
  • No, I don’t actually believe that I’m the only person in the world to have thought of this, nor that Microsoft ripped off my idea, man — it’s just fun with server logs.

More on Mayfly Content

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Ars Technica, Battelle’s Searchblog, TechCrunch, GigaOm, and Techdirt have all weighed in on Yahoo’s “brand universes” — a topic that I touched on back in November as The Internet called: it wants its pageviews back.

Other than my (well, PaidContent’s) two-month jump on the story, the big news here is the reading of this move. Where my response was “hey, this could be something interesting,” the folks linked above don’t seem to share very much of my optimism.

So why are these “brand universes” interesting? In the seamonkeyrodeo post linked above, I characterized Yahoo’s project (and MTV’s similar undertaking) as “mayfly content” efforts: attempts to focus on quick creation of Webspace about the topics that are getting traffic on the Web right now. Rather than building big, complex sites and then trying to drive traffic to them after the fact, you get the content up there quickly, using the smallest possible amount of your own resources — and you build knowing full well that traffic is likely to drop off precipitously as the target topic falls out of fashion.

While this would clearly be a supplement to, not a replacement for, longer-term Web strategies, it’s an interesting mindset: we know that traffic on the web is highly volatile, so what happens if we try to monitor and respond to those changes, rather than trying so hard to direct the traffic?

The list of brands that’s been released so far does give me some pause, though. A big part of what’s interesting about this approach is that it’s explicitly reactive: with del.icio.us, flickr, and its other components, Yahoo has access to a lot of information about what’s getting traffic now, and success for this sort of approach depends more on using that information to decide what to focus on right now than on the actual “user generated content” that flickr et al provide. A brand site based on Lost? Feels to me like the elapsed time between deciding what to build and actually building it is far too long here.

As Techdirt pointed out, this approach shares some of the DNA of splogs; this is true, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing…exactly. With Yahoo using content to which it has legitimate access, the biggest shared attribute is the goal: to track what’s popular now and provide content on those topics as quickly and easily as possible. Where the Web (including and especially blogs) largely takes the puritan approach (work hard, build an audience, profit), this mayfly content approach explicitly seeks to eliminate step one of that process. That may or may not be “right,” but it’s interesting, and I still believe that it has the potential to make money for Yahoo.

And whether I’m right or wrong on this, the “mayfly content” coinage grabbed at least one other person, so I can’t argue with that…though you did snake the top Google spot for mayfly content from me, Eric.