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Meet the Zune. Greet 'The Social'

Introduction

Microsoft advertises the Zune with the catchphrase "Welcome to the Social." So what is "The Social?" Judging by televised Zune commercials, it appears to be quite the party. Commercials often depict snowboarders riding on chairlifts or kids at raves, dance parties and in parking lots. Maybe they aren't kids; on second thought they look to be about my age. The twenty somethings of America's underground. Forces me to think those 40-year-old marketing execs have something up their sleeves.

If you think I'm a bit off kilter, then take a bite of this: "Let's say a kid in high school is having a party. He makes a flyer for the party with the date, time and directions. If he saves the flyer as a JPEG, he can invite his friends via Zune." Or how about this one: "The same kid goes on to college. He records his professor's economy lecture, puts it onto his laptop as an MP3, then syncs the lecture onto his Zune. He can then send the MP3 to another student, who might have fallen asleep during parts of the lecture." Where do I come up with this stuff? I didn't. It's straight from the Microsoft Zune Reviewer's Guide packet I have right in front of me. Welcome to "The Social," lazy schoolboy.

I'm Todd Haselton, 21 years old and fresh to "The Social," as I see it. I snowboard, I skateboard, I'm a college student (I sleep through class occasionally), I download music -I'm the type of consumer Microsoft seems to be considering as being part of "The Social." In a moment, I'll discuss why I think that's relevant. Let's explore the Zune, the Zune Marketplace and how they come together to create "The Social", and whether or not this catch-phrase can hold up to my expectations.

Zune Advertising

I'm going to do my best to review the Zune from A to Z, and what better place to start than with the Zune's advertising. In Zune commercials you will see young adults, probably about my age or a bit older, rockin' out in a crowd, throwing up the old forefinger-pinky rock salute, jamming out at some underground-culture concert. Microsoft is marketing the Zune at the young, the hip, the hip-hop underground and the skateboard parking lot heroes of America. Head over to YouTube and search "Zune commercials" to see for yourself.

The young adults of America are known to listen to the newest jams and for being up to date on the latest technology. We're young and dumb enough to waste our money upgrading and buying new gadgets - or at least ask for them as holiday gifts. We're an attractive crowd to market at, the perfect consumer.

Interestingly enough, the general manager of global marketing for the Zune is Chris Stephenson, who formerly served as vice president of marketing for MTV networks in Europe. Microsoft chose a man who knew how to market to a young crowd.

"At the backbone of Zune is this idea that music is to be shared, that people should be able to listen together," Microsoft says. Hmm, so now it's possible to take away that "The Social" is about the ability to share music wirelessly from one Zune to another. Why hasn't this idea been mentioned in Zune commercials if that's the big idea? Since when does sharing involve getting your friend into a new song and then telling him he'll have to buy it if he wants to keep it? Welcome to "The [financial] marketplace." More on that in a bit. Let's move on to the Zune unit itself.