Microsoft Zune versus Apple iPod: Components don’t make a gadget valuable!

I’m a bit baffled by this query I got from a PR agent who is working on the Microsoft Zune account:

“Between November 2006 and May 2008 Apple iPods have outsold Microsoft Zunes 38: 1. Has America chosen the best device? As the economy takes a turn for the worse, it is important for consumers to truly understand the value of a purchase. What are you getting for your money?

I have an electronics expert who can comment on the quality of each device (iPod and Zune). Aaron Vronko has recently disassembled the 4th generation iPod Nano, the 2nd generation iPod touch, the iPod Classic 120 GB, the Zune 120GB, and the Zune Flash to determine which device is in fact a better value.”

I’m really trying to figure out the logic behind this query. I mean, the value of a consumer electronics product is not the sum value of its components, so what’s the point of offering up an “expert” who has torn all of these gizmos apart?

Microsoft Zune internals
Zune Internals (Image credit:

It’s like saying that the value of one book is greater than another because it has more pages and more words. Last I checked, however, people don’t buy books because of their word count.
In terms of the Zune versus the iPod, the components are almost completely irrelevant. People don’t say “I was going to buy an iPod but when I found out that the audio plug isn’t robust, I bought a Zune instead”.
Am I wrong? Do you care about value of the components inside your electronic gizmo or gadget? More to the point, perhaps, would you be more likely to buy a Microsoft Zune player if you knew it had better quality components inside than a comparable Apple iPod?

5 comments on “Microsoft Zune versus Apple iPod: Components don’t make a gadget valuable!

  1. Hey Dave,
    Heavens no. The bottom line is the bottom line: it’s quality of the experience and sound. I’m not worried too much about how they get there. Teh quality of the components will have an effect, but the total effect is what it’s about. The iPod experience is way more than tolerance bands on capacitors. The iTunes software, massive server farm and quality of online experience is an integral part.
    A lot of my music experience is from my AppleTV and MacBook Pro. No analog components used for the audio there. All digital to the big Fi. The iPod/iPhone is just one of the delivery components in “my personal media infrastructure.”
    So, you are right. Sounds like a pretty strange desparation of justification to me. If my iPhone cost 100 or 200 bucks more, it wouldn’t change my enjoyment. Even though the “component value” delivered would even be smaller 😉

  2. I think you’re absolutely right – The value of the device is merely in the eyes of the beholder. It’s completely subjective.
    However, I do believe the PR agent was right about one thing…As the economy takes a turn for the worst, it is more and more important to make sure that we are getting the best for our buck.

  3. The integration with iTunes and Mac compatiblity are key. If there were an absolutely compelling podcast/audiobook site that outdid iTunes, that would make me consider a competitor. But currently even a small flash based player like Samsung’s or Sony’s would be a hassle for this reason.
    The “cool object” is only one facet.

  4. The quality of a devices hardware, does matter I.M.H.O. And you cannot make the comparison, between electronic devices hardware, and the numbers of pages/words in a book. Perhaps if you compare the quality of the components vs. the quality of the paper in book. For some people it matter, whether a book is hardcover or paperbacks. Or it is so cheap (low quality), that you have to separate the pages manually with a pair of scissors/letter-knife. Or if the book turns to dust just by looking at it almost, because it is so old/made of rice-paper/or some other weird factors. To get back to the devices, then I got a Nokia N95 mobile, and had it only a year, when the volume up/zoom button broke. That’s is not my definition of good quality, when the first error turns up only after 1 year. When we talk about components like chips, capacitors and so on, the quality of those mean the difference between a device that last for a long time, or one that turns dead, almost when you left the store/the guarantee ran out. And the type of chips in the device, have the influence on sound-,picture-quality a.s.o.

  5. Quality is very important when I purchase products from MP3 players to headlamps for my car. One thing I appreciate most is ingenuity and usability. The circular scroll-wheel that Apple uses is a thing of beauty. It scrolls and clicks and you can do it all with one hand. When all other companies try to copy the concept you know that they are doing something right. Marketing has a ton to do with Apple’s success, what was Apple before the iPod?

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