Apple 2.0

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iPad copycats: Zuned to failure?

March 15, 2011: 6:32 AM ET

There's a lesson for tablet makers in the reported death of Microsoft's "iPod killer"

Source: Microsoft

A fair amount of journalistic grave-dancing followed Bloomberg's report Monday that Microsoft (MSFT) had decided to stop developing new versions of its Zune music and video player -- a report Microsoft did not deny.

The headline of the story at MacDailyNews -- More blood on the iPod's Click Wheel: Microsoft pulls plug on Zune -- was an inside joke.

This was MacDailyNews' 13th in a series of "blood on the click wheel" headlines that began in 2005 with the death of Virgin Electronics and chronicled the demise of a parade of long-since forgotten MP3 players: the Rio, Sony's (SNE) Walkman Bean, Dell's (DELL) DJ and DJ Ditty, and digital music players from Thomson, Olympus, iRiver and BenQ.

Microsoft didn't get into the market until 2006 -- five years after Apple (AAPL) launched its music player and three years after iPod sales took off with the Windows version of iTunes. Redmond probably threw hundreds of millions of dollars into Zune, but as BetaNews' Joe Wilcox points out, it never made the kind of marketing or distribution commitment required to overtake what was by then Apple's almost insurmountable lead.

But you have to ask yourself: If Microsoft couldn't compete with the iPod, what chance do all those tablet makers rushing me-too products to market have against the iPad?

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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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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