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Zune moving at slow tempo

In downtown San Francisco, anyway, Microsoft's just-launched music player certainly wasn't flying off the shelf--if it was even on the shelf.

SAN FRANCISCO--Though Microsoft's answer to Apple Computer's iPod juggernaut officially went on sale nationwide Tuesday, the Zune wasn't exactly flying off the shelves in downtown San Francisco.

At two retail outlets, the new media player wasn't even on the shelves. The Virgin Megastore near Union Square had them in stock, but the Zune display wasn't the right fit for the store's shelving. The players would be on sale "sometime this week" when new signage was scheduled to be delivered, said a store representative who declined to give his name.


Zunes were also absent from the digital audio player display at the nearby CompUSA. "We were supposed to get them, but somehow they got delayed," an employee said. But there has been interest, he said. About 15 people had come seeking the Zune just that morning.

Radio Shack was another miss, but a delay or shipping problem was not to blame--the store is not scheduled to sell them yet, said John Nashed, assistant manager of the Market Street Radio Shack. He estimated that four customers Tuesday morning had shown interest in buying one.

But there was a steady flow of interested customers at Best Buy just before lunchtime. A stream of mostly men sauntered up to the brown Zune, wedged between a lineup of satellite radios and other handheld devices.

"We've sold 10 already today," said Best Buy general manager Ben Bagwell, while noting that most of the store's customers don't typically drop by until later in the afternoon. "The Zune's actually been doing pretty well, better than I expected."

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Video: Public's take on Zune
Here is what consumers are saying about the new digital media player.

Though he didn't discern a trend toward interest in a particular color--brown, black or white--gift giving was on most customers' minds. "It appears we've had some business customers come in, interested in possibly giving them away as holiday gifts," Bagwell said.

Ralph Lindsey, the owner of a second-generation iPod who was browsing the Zune display, said he was not planning on making a purchase, but liked the Zune's wider screen. Since he would want to watch videos on the player, however, he was "concerned" about the Zune's available storage space. "I'm not sure 30 gigabytes will be enough," he said.

Ron McIntyre echoed that concern. A self-described audiophile, the Best Buy customer and iPod owner called the Zune "pretty cool" after checking it out.

"I'm not sure if it's something I'd be interested in because of the size of the hard drive, but all the features on it are pretty neat," he said. "The screen's pretty clear, it's got brightness controls, which it doesn't have on my iPod. The wireless technology back and forth sounds cool, but I can't obviously sample that here, so I don't know how well that will work."

One feature getting lots of attention, but little consensus, is the color. Lindsey adamantly said, "Brown is definitely not appealing." Another customer said, "The colors are right on."

"If you look at Europe, that's right where they're at," said Laate Olukotun, a product designer casually inspecting the brown Zune. "The dual color, the green (edge), is really intriguing."

Olukotun also labeled the Microsoft player's design "too chunky." However, he added: "The fact that they went with a wider screen, to me, that is a really smart move."

For what it's worth, the Zune is now ranking No. 6 on's list of top-selling electronics, updated hourly. Versions of the iPod, however, are ranking No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4.