Posted by: Staff | 01.18.2008

“Zune Arts” tries to help repair Microsoft’s image


When Microsoft was almost ready to announce its answer to the iPod, the “Zune” media player, last November, it put up a web site: At the time, there was just a single line-drawn animation that looked more or less like this:

After the Zune launched, this became Zune Arts, an ever-growing collection of animated stills and videos. Aside from the fact that every video ends with the Zune logo, they aren’t commercials. They never show the product, and they never talk about the product. Artists contributing to the project are simply asked to make something that emphasizes the themes of “sharing, connection, discovery and friendship.” It’s hard to take that at face value, coming from a multibillion dollar convicted monopoly. But the videos are there, they do what they say they’re going to do, and if you give them a chance, they’re actually pretty interesting.

They’re certainly very artistically creative. But some of them have a truly bizarre take on those themes of sharing and friendship. Take, for instance, the teddy bear visiting the grave of a lost loved one.

Soooo, you take a roller coaster ride down his spinal column… and then, OK, he shares his heart with his beloved, so that they can be reunited at last—but nobody can live for long with half a heart, so they both drop dead within about 20 seconds. A not-so-subtle reference to the time-bombed nature of songs shared with a Zune? Ouch.

(Note: Songs sent to you by a friend expire after three plays. Unless, that is, you tell the Zune software that it’s actually a “podcast,” in which case there’s no limit… not that that would be ethical… wink wink…)

And then there are the ones you can take as a metaphor for Microsoft itself. In this one, imagine Microsoft as the robot and J Allard (mastermind of the Xbox and Zune) as the little girl.

Get it? Giant monopoly wreaking havoc, little friendly kid comes along and redeems him. And then the robot marketing machine makes the little girl “cool,” and they both run off together, conquering industries left and right. But everyone’s teaming up on them, and it’s looking like they won’t make it—but relax, they’ll be fine. They ride off into the sunset.

This one, just put up January 9, takes a more tragic approach.

Imagine Laika (first animal in orbit, for the history buffs) as Microsoft. A pioneer, doomed to die, whose final sacrifice is to spread joy and Halo 3 and whatever to the people of Earth. I’m probably just reading too much into it, but still—what exactly are they trying to say here!? (Personally, I prefer the sunset ending.)

Zune is currently a joke, but if it continues to make progress, it could conceivably become as big a player in Microsoft’s stable as the Xbox. Apple has enjoyed a tremendous “halo effect” from the success of the iPod. That is to say, people who like the iPod become fans of Apple in general. It is unclear whether brands like Xbox and Zune will have a similar effect of Microsoft’s image. If so, then maybe Zune Arts will have had something to do with it. Or maybe it’s just too strange.



  1. Mr. Tucker, it is fortunate that I have stumbled across a work such as this. You see, I am in a neverending search for the superior portable media player, and this article has opened my eyes to the complexity of the Zune. Too creepy though…..I’m going with Apple.

  2. It has less to do with the Zune and more to do with the Zune team’s (and Zune marketing team’s) philosophy. If you want to debate the merits of the products themselves, that’s a separate matter. 🙂

    By the way, they just posted a new one, apparently in honor of Valentine’s Day (Happy Valentine’s Day!), and it’s one of the creepiest yet:

    And here’s an older one that has a more optimistic take on song-sharing (you can share without losing anything yourself, and while the other person’s piece doesn’t last forever, it brings them pleasure while it lasts):

    Also of note is the array of downloads that come with every video. That Valentine’s Day one has printable Valentine’s Day cards, for instance, in addition to the usual assortment of wallpapers and videos. A couple, like these, even have fold-up paper doll instructions:

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