Zune's failure proves the way onto devices, for radio, is apps

Microsoft announced yesterday that they’re giving up on their well-reviewed iPod competitor, the Microsoft Zune — one of the most-prominent selling points of which was its inclusion of FM and HD radio.

This is telling. Even though the Zune was an attractively-designed, well-priced device, with what would seem like a valuable selling point in its radio feature, Apple’s iPod is maintaining about a 75% share of the MP3 player market and Zune is rumored to be somewhere around a 2% share. (Cumulative sales to date tell a similar story: About 240 million iPods, about 3 million Zunes.)

Had the Zune succeeded, it’s likely that Apple would have taken more seriously the idea of putting FM radio (if not HD Radio) into iPods. (It has experimented with offering FM radio in one or two secondary iPod models — e.g., its 5th and 6th generation iPod Nanos — but never in its flagship iPods or iPhones.)

With the death of Zune, the odds of Jobs and Apple countering with more FM radio in more models severely decreases. Similarly, cell phones offering FM capability, such as those offered previously by Nokia and Motorola, never caught on in the U.S. either. (Although there still may be a chance with Windows Mobile 7 phones, all of which are required by Microsoft to have FM radio built into the hardware.)

What this means for radio is that while the industry’s efforts to encourage FM radio in mobile devices should of course continue, broadcasters should realize that the more direct and more likely approach to getting their stations to consumers is via apps.

That’s how consumers are consuming radio on their mobile devices. It’s the wave of the future.

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