Zune vs. iPod: Microsoft’s Third Strike

You know, I was all ready to write a really long article comparing the new Microsoft Zune to the Apple iPod. But then, some guy I don’t even know (Jeremy Horowitz) went and wrote up the exact article I was thinking about… and even did it better. So read his.

Microsoft’s Third Strike: Zune Hyped, Lessons Learned

I found another blog, hosted in Japan, that just rips Zune pretty hard.

Personally, I completely understand why Microsoft built the Zune, and rushed it to market. Microsoft is not used to being on the other end of network effects, and while they’ve been focusing on Google as their new enemy #1, Apple has somehow locked up the digital media marketplace around music. Worse, they seem to be in a good position to leverage that monopoly into other areas of the digital home.

In digital media, it’s like the Bizarro planet, where the planet is square and you say goodbye when you enter, hello when you leave. Apple has the entrenched monopoly, tied together with a powerful alliance of hardware, software & digital rights management. Microsoft is the underdog here, because they can’t really leverage their strength in the enterprise, and their consumer marketshare doesn’t help them much either since the iPod & iTunes are cross-platform.

It really is strange through the looking glass, because in this world Apple has the broad product line and thousands of third parties, including auto manufacturers! Microsoft has just a few models, and insignificant ecosystem support.

I’m not sure I understand why Microsoft abandoned PlaysForSure with Zune. One of the things I learned from Michael Porter about corporate strategy is that you need to build your moat around your unique value proposition – not try to and just mimic your competitors. The Zune smacks of a bit of desperation, and I’m not sure hundreds of millions in marketing dollars will change that.

Still, Microsoft has deep pockets, and they are going to be in the game for the long term. My prediction is that they’ll lean towards tighter integration with the Xbox, and use that as the lever into the digital home. I do wonder, however, whether they could have just embraced the iPod, and worked to make the Windows Media, Xbox, iPod ecosystem flawless, thus containing Apple to what will eventually be a small piece of the overall digital home. It would have been a lot cheaper, and would have spared them another round of embarrassment.

Embrace & Extend. Whatever happened to that oldie but goodie?

Tivo Series 3: Holiday Gadget Guide Review

There is a really good review of the Tivo Series 3 on the new Holiday Gadget Guide being hosted by Federated Media.  It’s written by the guy who writes for PVRBlog.

Tivo’s going HD: The Series 3

Very balanced review, but I think it highlights the dilemna that everyone has.  There seems to be no question that this is the best HD DVR out there, bar none.  But the price!  Ouch.

As a result, I’m going to add this to the same list that the Nintendo Wii is on.

It’s the “feel free to buy me one for the holidays” list.

Much appreciated!  Thank you in advance.

Sequencing the Neanderthal Genome: 1 Million Down, 2 Years to Go

A very exciting article was published in Nature magazine today:

Analysis of One Million Base Pairs of Neanderthal DNA

This is really more of a report of a proof of concept, the ability and technique to sequence ancient DNA from a 45,000 year old specimen.

There is also some good coverage on the Science Blog:

The veil of mystery surrounding our extinct hominid cousins, the Neanderthals, has been at least partially lifted to reveal surprising results. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) have sequenced genomic DNA from fossilized Neanderthal bones. Their results show that the genomes of modern humans and Neanderthals are at least 99.5-percent identical, but despite this genetic similarity, and that the two species cohabitated the same geographic region for thousands of years, there is no evidence of any significant crossbreeding between the two. Based on these early results, Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis last shared a common ancestor approximately 700,000 years ago.

Most of the coverage goes out of its way to say that there was no inter-breeding between  Neanderthals and modern man.  However, for some reason, the Gene Expression blog is reporting the opposite.

The most exciting news is that they are kicking off a 2-year program to fully sequence the Neanderthal genome.  The New York Times has the best article on the topic I can find online.

We are going to learn an incredible amount about hominid evolution and ourselves through this process.  I’m also quite excited about the eventual ethical debates about whether or not we should at some point try to clone a real Neanderthal.  In particular, I’d be very interested to hear the arguments from the anti-evolution crowd about whether or not they would consider this cloning a human being.

Purely theoretical at this point, since we don’t have the technology… yet.