Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Wes Moss: The new face of Microsoft's Zune

May 12, 2009: 8:23 AM ET

Wes Moss from TV adHe's the son of a veterinarian, the oldest of four rambunctious siblings, and has been reading the Wall Street Journal since age 11, according to various online biographies. He grew up outside Philadelphia's Main Line, near both old money and Amish frugality. He got a degree in economics from the University of North Carolina, married his wife Lynne and took a job at Atlanta's second-largest global investment firm. He has written two books, hosts a local talk radio show, writes a column for the New York Daily News online, and runs a website filled with enthusiastic financial planning advice. (We counted a dozen exclamation points on his home page alone.)

But Wes Moss' main claim to fame, until now, was his stint on The Apprentice with Donald Trump. He was fired half-way through the second season for ceding control of a Levi jeans photo shoot to a woman who, in his words, "flew into the studio on her broomstick." In the boardroom Trump canned them both -- the show's first double-firing. "I would have at least liked my own cab," Moss quipped on the way home.

Today he is the face of Microsoft's (MSFT) Zune digital music player and star of Redmond's latest Apple (AAPL) attack ad. As with the Laptop Hunter series, Microsoft goes directly for Apple's pecuniary jugular, stacking the cost of filling a 120GB iPod with songs purchased from the iTunes Store ($30,000) against the cost of a monthly Zune Pass subscription ($15).

"People worry about the capacity of their iPod," Moss says on screen. "What about the capacity of their bank account? At a buck a song, they'll run out of money way before they run out of space." (See video below.)

It's a catchy spot, delivered by Moss with plenty of exclamation points. But it's really an argument between two business models -- à la carte vs. subscription -- that the market has so far settled in Apple's favor.

And once again, there are holes in Microsoft's argument large enough to drive an army of Apple blogs. Here's Emil Protalinski's take on it in Ars Technica:

"So where does Microsoft get the $30,000 number? Well, seeing as the 120GB iPod appears in the ad, I'm thinking the company is estimating each song at about 4MB, which really isn't much of an exaggeration. Of course, it's not exactly $15 versus $30,000. The $15 is a monthly fee, so you're likely going to be paying more if you plan on playing music for more than a month. That said, it would take you 166 years and 8 months to shell out $30,000 for the Zune Pass; many of us won't be living that long.

"As of November 2008, the Zune Pass allows its users to keep any 10 songs per month. In other words, if you wanted 30,000 songs for keeps, just like the iTunes Store, you would have to wait 250 years. The cost would be a whopping $45,000, however. In other words, it's only really worth it if you're OK with the fact that you have to keep paying the monthly fee to keep access to the songs that you don't yet own. Otherwise, iTunes (or any other à la carte model) is the way to go."

Worth a visit: Moss' ZunePass MAX'D CALCULATOR. As you adjust the capacity of your iPod from 4GB to 120GB, the image changes, with swooshy sound effects, from tiny shuffle to big black classic. Cool.

See also:

Below the fold: The Zune Pass ad, via YouTube.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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