Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Creative... Innovating or Immitating?

I’ve just caught sight of the new Creative Zen V Plus over at Creative.com. It’s another MP3 player, and a good looking one at that. Although it has a small storage capacity (1, 2 or 4gb), it does comes in various different flavours (5 trim colours according to creative.com). It also includes a ‘line-in’ recording socket which is useful. It allows you to encode mp3’s from various sources without the need of a PC. Hoorah! It also includes extra features like a calender, clock & task list. These additions, however, are a bit too extra for me. It’s an MP3 player, it play’s MP3s! (more on this later).

However, this is not my point. The Creative Zen V Plus looks a lot like Microsoft’s new offering, the Zune. I Mean, they’re both MP3 Players. They both have colour screens (most do these days) however, it’s the design similiarities that gets me. Both are set out the same way. Screen at the top (like most), but a circular button at the bottom which controls most of the tools, with seperate Play buttons.

Is the circular button too much like the ‘pods though? When i see an MP3 player with a big circle at the bottom, i immediatly think of an iPod. It’s all about branding & being unique. If your product looks similar to other products out there, it wont stick in people’s minds, they’ll say “oh, there’s that player that looks like a Zune”..

When it came to me getting an MP3 player. I could of gone for the iPod, but i didn’t want to follow the trend. For me, an iPod was more of a status symbol than an MP3 player. So i went for a Creative Zen Touch player. A 20gb model from Creative which does it’s job well. It plays MP3’s. It has a black & white screen. It works. This is what im talking about! When i look for something, i want something that is dedicated to what i want it to do! If your going to buy an Mp3 player, do you want it to have a calender on it? Do you want it to have a task manager on it? No, of course not. Your buying it to listen to music, not to see if you need to buy milk when you next go to Tesco’s.

That said, i think technology these day’s is loosing it’s mark. Too many features are trying to be bundled in with too many gadgets. I can see in 5 years time, there will be mobile phones with 10gb flash drives installed. You could sit on the bus and watch the latest episode of eastenders before it’s broadcast over digital tv because iTunes on your mobile has synced with the BBC via the buses wireless hotspot technology. Phones will no longer be phones, MP3 players will no longer be MP3 players…

However, i digress. I’ve covered many gripes (branding / uselessness / copycat / eastenders). In summary, i think the new V plus looks like a Zune (or vice-versa). Both look very similar to an iPod because both companies (Creative & Microsoft) want a slice of Apple’s pie, and in doing so, have turned themselves into sheep. Getting to the top of the pile isn’t about stealing your competitor’s customers, it’s about innovating your products & enticiing your customers. Give them a reason to buy your products. 

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