Failed Consumer Electronics Week: Remember the Zune?


In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re paying homage to the consumer electronics that broke our heart. They started out so promising, set hearts everywhere pitter-pat, but then crashed and burned, leaving us with a hunk of junk not even a pawn shop would touch. Love hurts.

It’s easy to talk about consumer electronic success stories. Get a tech guru started on the iPhone or the Nintendo Wii, and they will talk for hours about how the product revolutionized its industry.

But who remembers the consumer electronics that failed?

We do.

It Promised to Crush the iPod


Name sound familiar? If this was 2006, it probably would. Zune was Microsoft’s much-hyped competitor to the iPod, marketed extensively through television advertisements and Internet campaigns by the electronics giant.

But the product failed to deliver on an epic level: struggling to even crack a double digit market share in an industry where the iPod dominated with over 60 percent, the Zune was left for dead and unceremoniously discontinued in 2011.

Why Did It Fail?

One, because it wasn’t innovative enough. When the Zune entered the portable MP3 market in 2006, the iPod had already carved out its niche for a few years. To compete, the Zune would have to offer significant differences to its competitor to even make users think about switching, and it didn’t. The design also seemed busier than Apple’s simplistic beauty, which had been the subject of extensive advertising campaigns in its own right.

But more than anything else, Apple had spent its years of market dominance building up its iTunes music store, offering a selection of music that was beyond anything the Zune could compete with. Add to that the fact that iTunes was a formidable music player in its own right, and the Zune stood little chance.

An Interesting Case Study, If Nothing Else

As badly as the Zune failed, it also offered an interesting recommerce case study. Failed consumer electronics eventually have their users seeking to upgrade to more socially acceptable and functional alternative. When that happens, you can take advantage of the in-rush of business through buyback programs.

What’s more, in developing nations, a technology like the Zune will not come with the negative stigma of a failed product; it will be looked at as a more affordable MP3 player. In the late 2000s, buying back Zunes and reselling them to developing nations became a lucrative business for those savvy enough to recognize the opportunity.

In other words, failed consumer electronics are not all negative. Contact us today to get more information on how you can turn market inefficiencies to great advantage.



Justin Finkelstein

Co-Founder & CTO at Sourcely; server swiss army knife; flavor architect; the wildcard.