No doubt about it, had the news been about HD Radio becoming standard equipment in Apple iPods, we'd all be thinking much differently. The Zune - like much of what has come out of Microsoft in recent years - is a "me, too" device that has low awareness and minimal penetration in the marketplace. Does it enhance radio's position to be included in these devices or is it yet another reminder that radio has fallen out of step with the consumer and favored gadgets? It is, nonetheless, a mini-tipping point for HD Radio - a far better story than the one about the technology being adopted in Panama.
It was also telling that many of radio's CEOs jumped on the bandwagon, and praised everyone from Microsoft to the HD Radio Alliance to iBiquity for this accomplishment. That's all well and good, but the reality is that the commitment level to this technology - and the programming and investment in HD2 stations - has been steadily eroding.
For radio, the Zune relationship is symbolic of the larger problem that to many we're a medium that is out-of-sync with where tastes and technology are going. Despite Microsoft's heft in the software world, the Zune lacks awareness, cache, and buzz. For many, this development will only reinforce the notion that radio's track record for picking partners and brands is questionable. We continue to look and act minor league.