Microsoft Zune team invited to give up iPods

Microsoft's Zune team has placed a bin at its headquarters where employees can deposit unwanted iPods

In what can be seen as either a joke or a real attempt to get employees to give up Apple iPods in favor of the Zune MP3 player, the team at Microsoft that builds Zune has set up a bin at its headquarters so employees can drop in iPods they don't want to use anymore.

A photo of the "iPod Amnesty Bin", which has on it an image of a bitten green apple and the words "Bite me," has been posted on Flickr. From the looks of the photo, not many people have been willing to give up their iPods, though a few of the earlier versions of Apple's popular media players were lying at the bottom of the bin.

A user who calls himself "fimoculous" and identified himself in an e-mail as MSNBC.com employee Rex Sorgatz, posted the photo, and said he thought the bin was someone's idea of a joke, nothing more. MSNBC.com is a joint media venture between Microsoft and MSNBC.

"My guess is someone at Zune thought it would be funny, that's all," he said. Sorgatz said he is an iPod user, but could be convinced to switch if he found a superior product.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, also suspects the bin's placement is meant to be funny, as it would likely be in the Zune team's best interest to use the latest iPod devices for competitive purposes. Indeed, none of the iPods in the bin in the photo were current versions.

"Most of the people [working on] Zune would want to have an iPod to keep track of the competition," he said. "On that team, they're all into digital music, so all of them probably have a bunch of players."

The photo got numerous comments from Flickr users, who in general thought it was amusing, though some were less impressed than others by the joke.

"Only someone stupid enough to buy a Zune would be equally stupid enough to not sell their discarded iPod on eBay," commented Ariel Waldman, (ariel_waldman on Flickr), a digital insights analyst at interactive marketing agency VML Inc.

"That's funny," wrote another who goes by "Dr_Watso" on Flickr. " I was always amazed that people ... jumped on the iPod bandwagon, even though there are so many much better devices that cost a whole lot less."

The Zune team is based at Microsoft's Bear Creek offices in Redmond, Washington, near the main campus.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Microsoft public relations agency that represents Zune said she could not reach anyone on the team for comment, but she suspects the bin is meant to be a joke or a "morale booster" for employees at Zune headquarters.

Microsoft launched the Zune last November, but the device has done little to sap enthusiasm for the iPod, which remains a top seller in the hard-drive media-player market, according to marketing-research firm NPD.

Still, Microsoft is ramping up its marketing efforts around Zune in the hopes it can drum up interest in the device. The company released a pink Zune earlier this month that is outselling Zunes in white and brown, according to the company, and also launched a new print advertising campaign to promote the pink Zune called "Sync Pink." Microsoft also introduced a new TV commercial that highlights the features of Zune that differentiate it from the iPod, such as wireless sharing and the FM radio tuner.

Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of its Xbox game console to promote Zune as well. In light of the highly anticipated release of the "Halo 3" Xbox game later this year, Microsoft unveiled a limited edition, "Halo"-themed Zune that comes preloaded with "Halo" videos, soundtracks and trailers. The device will be offered exclusively at GameStop retail stores and on its online store beginning June 15. There already have been preorders for the device, Microsoft said.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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