Microsoft seems to have lost interest in the consumer market in Australia. While US nationals have access to Media Centre Electronic Program Guides, Zune MP3 players, home servers and music sites Australians get nothing with the Company preferring to concentrate on the enterprise and SMB market.
During the past 12 months Microsoft has failed to deliver a music site for Australian consumers despite this being promised by April 2007. They have also failed to deliver a simple EPG service for media centre users despite a Federal Court judge ruling that local EPG service provider IceTV who supply an EPG service to OEM manufacturers of media centres are not in breach of any copyright infringements.
According to IceTv Chairman Colin OBrien there is no reason for Microsoft can not offer Australians the same EPG service that it supplies to US and European nationals who buy a Microsoft Media Centre.
The EPG service is not the only area where Microsoft is failing to deliver Australians the same service as US nationals. Back on January 30th 2007 Microsoft announced a partnership with Sanity Music, Australia’s largest music retailer. The plan was deliver the first integrated online music subscription service in Australia.
“It’s like having the best music store you’ve ever been to, with the most helpful staff you’ve ever met, right there on your home PC,” said Jeff Putt, Director of the Windows Business Group, Microsoft Australia. “The new Sanity service will give you access to all the music you could want, more than a million tracks, 24×7, as well as information on bands and playlists.”
However this has failed to eventuate with Jeff Putt of Microsoft and Sanity boss Greg Milne refusing to return calls.
In January Microsoft claimed that the Sanity service would give Australian Windows Vista customers access to more than 1 million tracks to download via Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11) and will offer both subscription and purchase options when it goes live in April 2007.
“The Sanity service on Microsoft technology will make online music accessible for many people – it’s a rich, vibrant and easy-to-use experience that reflects the excitement of our stores. The service will also give consumers freedom and choice because it lets you listen to vast amounts of music across many different personal music players – not just on the one brand.” said Greg Milne, chief executive, Sanity Music.
“Importantly, through the subscription service, music lovers will have a great new way to discover and download music both cost-effectively AND legally. For the price of less than a couple of CDs, you’ll be able to access up to 300 new tracks per month,” Greg Milne said.
Microsoft has also failed to deliver a Zune MP3 player for Australians despite the fact that US nationals are now on their second version of the player. Designed initally to take on the iPod the Zune player has been a big failure when compared to the millions in iPod sales that Apple are achieving.
Despite selling only 1.2 million Zunes since they were launched in the US last November, Microsoft persists with the device, introducing the Zune 80, which offers 80GB of hard disk storage and costs over $300 and the Zune 8 and Zune 4, which are flash-based devices.
It’s almost hard not to feel sorry for Microsoft; with the touchscreen iPod touch hitting the shops this week, the Zune already looks old-fashioned.
Even the areas in which Microsoft has innovated fall pancake-flat: the Zune uses its integrated wi-fi so that owners can wirelessly exhange music tracks between devices, which seems like a brilliant idea, but the song can be played only three times by the person you’ve Zuned it to.
That would be OK if Microsoft had taken a leaf from Apple’s book and introduced a wireless music store, so you could directly purchase a sampled track if you liked it, but it hasn’t. And unlike the iPod touch, the Zune has no built-in web browser.