Creative recently launched its newest kid on the block – the ZEN Stone, priced at just about half of the 2nd generation iPod shuffle. I haven’t seen the actual product, but from the photograph (albeit probably heavily enhanced with Adobe® Photoshop® software), it doesn’t look too shabby. Of course, one look at it and one might scream “Shuffle Copy!”. Well that has some truth in it, though there simply aren’t too many permutations if you have the basic UI element with a rectangular IC board in it. Looks wise, I’d actually prefer this over the Shuffle, though this doesn’t clip (and comes with IMO awful color options).
What is much more interesting for me, though, is a comment that I came across over at the Engadget comments. One commenter remembered way back in 2005, when Sim Wong Hoo announced the declaration of war on Apple (Apple had then just launched the 1st generation iPod shuffle):
We’re expecting a good fight but they’re coming out with something that’s five generations older. It’s our first generation MuVo One product feature, without display, just have a (shuffle feature). We had that — that’s a four-year-old product. So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people — it’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player. Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM. They don’t have this kind of thing, and they expect to come out with a fight; I think it’s a non-starter to begin with. [Sim Wong Hoo, 11th Jan 2005]
Looks like he’s forced to eat his words.
From having to exchange the patent rights for “Made-for-iPod” branding rights, to launching the ZEN Stone following the success of Apple’s iPod shuffle, Creative has been forced to swallow humble pie time and again. Perhaps one of the lessons they can learn (and should have learned a long time ago), is that technological prowess is by no means the defining factor in consumer decisions and sales. The one who can best woo the customers in the field wins. And from the company’s performance in this market, it seems that they have either not learned the lesson, or are just unable to compete at the level required.
Perhaps as a result of the dismal returns that their $100million (budget for marketing head-on against Apple) has brought them, they have realigned their strategy of providing the cheaper and just-as-good me-too products. If you can’t fight them, well at least run along?