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Zune Phone


Windows Mobile 7 Incorporates Zune

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There have been many rumors about the Zune being recreated into a phone.  At this point, it is more than safe to say that it ain't happening.  However, lately Microsoft has been focusing on the Zune as a software platform as well, and more than "just" a handheld device.

The newest rumor is that Zune will be incorporated into the Windows Mobile 7 platform.  The downside is that this newest mobile OS will likely make its debut in 2010, hopefully in the first half.  This means that there will be a wait to getting this in consumer's hands.  The upside is that this may entice more users to purchase Windows Mobile phones which have traditionally fared better for enterprise use than average consumers.

I personally like the sound of this strategy.  If there is a way to get the Zune platform into more users hands, this could be a good way as smartphones penetrate more.  Imagine how awesome it would be to be able to use your Zune pass with streaming via a 3G network!  Not to mention how social we could be if we weren't limited to WiFi exchanges.  This is the forward thinking that is called for, and hopefully this will be implemented up to its full potential.


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No Zune Phone For You!

Zphone The evidence is more than piled up that Microsoft is not doing a phone version of their Zune.  With the recent introduction of Windows Mobile 6.5, there is definite anticipation of Windows Mobile 7.  Is there a renewed hope for a Zune Phone?

Clearly, not so far.  Ballmer reemphasized that Microsoft is committed to the licensing model.  In other words, someone else makes the hardware, and Microsoft just does the software, which is what they do for desktops/notebooks, and what they want to do anyway.  Producing a Zune Phone, where they do both the hardware and the software just wouldn't fit into those plans.  At least for the rest of this month, I think the Zune Phone rumors have been kaboshed.

The real question is where does that leave the Zune?  In a market that is so overly smartphone centric, where sales of the iPod Classic are flat, can the Zune ever thrive and get beyond a niche product of folks that want a good music player and won't buy an Apple anything?  I'm not sure, but unless things change, and pronto, I don't see the Zune getting into double digits without "Thinking Different."


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Zune Phone Rumor- Not, Confirmed

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There was plenty of anticipation for Microsoft to come up with something to revive themselves with.  Looking at the iPhone, clearly the answer was a direct competitor.  A Zune Phone, or even zPhone if you will.  This would have taken the Zune to the next level.


On the other hand, Microsoft is still a software company.  While they got their Xbox to fly like an eagle, the Zune is still taxiing on the runway.  While many of us use it and agree it is a fine product, the sales numbers just aren't there.  It would appear that Microsoft is focusing less on building their own dedicated hardware, and more on creating an excellent software experience.  Here's what they said at the Mobile World Congress about this the other day:

Microsoft stated emphatically Monday that it would not be building a phone; instead it would roll out services and rely on partners to supply the hardware.

"We are not going to make a phone; we believe in the richness of the ecosystem," Andy Lees, senior vice president of the mobile communications business at Microsoft, told a group of financial analysts at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  There had been rumors circulating for months of a forthcoming Zune phone phone and speculation on special projects as a result of Microsoft's Danger acquisition.

From where I am sitting, that seems pretty definitive.  They go on to take a sideswipe at the Palm Pre, but I don't think the Zune Phone is even on the drawing board at this point.  Let's hope that this Marketplace is everything they promise.  I'd also like to see the Zune tie into it as well to make a more cohesive family of products.


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Windows Phones Now With Marketplace

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Clearly Microsoft has some catching up to do in the world of mobile phones.  Sneak Surf onto any Apple forum (I know, heaven forbid, I've done the research to save you the indignity), and much of the discussion is centered around the myriad of mobile apps that can be added to the iPhone, and in many cases, the iPod Touch.  It is far more social than any experience the Zune has done to date.  Giving credit where it is due, Apple has done one heck of a job in creating a whole ecosystem of applications that run on their hardware.  The only like it was for the Palm platform (which is now dead as of last week).  While Google has attempted to duplicate it with their Android G1, it's clearly a work in progress.

To date, Microsoft, the number one software maker in the world, has dropped the ball here.  Their Windows Mobile operating system did not have anything like this developed ecosystem.  However, today, an announcement was made at the Mobile World Congress that shows that Microsoft is moving in the direction of an ecosystem of apps.  Reportedly, the new Windows Mobile 6.5 phones will have an icon to allow them to browse, and purchase apps from the Marketplace.  I might imagine that purchasing Zune tracks might be in the mix as well.  Of course this will only work if there are lots of compelling, and equally affordable apps populating the Marketplace.  That remains to be seen, of course.

Of course, the next step is to make the Marketplace accessible from more than just smartphones.  Look at the success that the iTouch has had, not being tied to any contract or carrier.  While many predicted the death of PDA's years ago, an iPod variant has taken off in this segment.  If this isn't a mandate for Microsoft to build a really usable browser into the next Zune, I'm not sure what they would need.  here's hoping for a Zune Touch device in the not too distant future.


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Zune Phone Clarification

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Once again, we've got the "on again, off again" rumors of the Zune Phone in the works.  This time, it is centering on the speculation that Microsoft would release a Zune branded phone at the Mobile World Congress this month taking place in Barcelona.  While some speculated there would be a Zune phone appearance there, especially when it was a no show at CES, it appears that it won't be there either.  Anyway folks, did we really expect to see it that soon, because I didn't.

At any rate, the latest thinking is that Microsoft will not build the phone itself, but rather, produce the Zune platform as an OS, and have reference designs for hardware.  They refer to this as a "smartphone chassis."  This ends up being a win-win as Microsoft can avoid the pitfalls of hardware manufacturing, and still get their software out there.

Let's look to a little history though.  For more than a few years, Microsoft did not make a music player, and just pushed their "Plays For Sure" standard.  They finally got fed up with the lack of inspired designs that could compete with the still dominant iPod.  They decided to roll up their sleeves and do it themselves, and the Zune was born.  I still think that history will repeat itself, and if Microsoft has to produce the hardware to get their mobile OS onto a device, I think they will do it.  However, I don't anticipate it this month, or at the earliest by the Fall of this year.

So, does this clear everything up, or just confuse things further?


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Zune Phone Rumors Live On

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Amidst the news that Zune missed the mark by a cool $100 million last year, there's been talk of reviving the Zune, and regrouping to accomplish this.  Many of us have watched, hoped for, and speculated if some type of Zune Phone is part of Microsoft's plan to take on the iPod line where it really counts with a phone device.  While there was at least a little disppointment at CES, and despite continuous denials, there still may be some type of Zune Phone on the drawing board.  After all, can Microsoft really ignore the iPhone, not to mention the success of the Google platformed G1, and all the buzz that the Palm Pre generated at CES for a product that doesn't even have a ship date, and not counter somehow?  I doubt it.

The first tidbit is that reportedly there will be a change on the Windows Mobile Team.  Joe Belfiore from the Zune team is going over to the Windows Mobile team.  Hopefully this will be a move to bring some youth to the Windows Mobile Platform that is seen as more business oriented, and not exactly a teen sensation.

Toshiba has manufactured the Zune for Microsoft.  After all, the original Zune 30 was a rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat.  It is with intrigue that Toshiba is releasing the TG01, their latest touchscreen smartphone.  Hmmm.  Anyone see how this platform could benefit from a software makeover of the Zune kind?  Seems like a chip shot to me...


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Windows Mobile 6.5 To Incorporate Zune

Microsoft is expected to rollout their latest version of their mobile operating system next month, dubbed Windows Mobile 6.5 at the Mobile World Congress.  The plan will continue to rely on hardware partners to produce the actual phone, with Microsoft handling the software side of things.

The latest rumor is that this newest operating system will incorporate at least some of the Zune features into the handset.  It is also hypothesized that this is what the "Danger team" has been up to lately.  These new phones are expected for the second half of this year.

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I was going to just dismiss this as yet another zPhone rumor, but I noticed that this screenshot did have Marketplace as a screen icon.  Could this be yet another clue?  Anyone for "the social" over a 3G network?


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Dangerous Zune

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Everytime we put the Zune Phone to rest, it takes a five minute break, and rears its ugly head once again.  CES 2009 has come and gone, and well, quite obviously, no Zune Phone.  We've even got Ballmer himself making it clear that there's no Zune Phone, and that the iPhone has "clear market momentum," and making it sound like Microsoft is not going to chase Apple at this point in this area.

Done deal, right?  Well, now I find out that there is still speculation over what exactly the Microsoft folks are doing with the Sidekick update that is in the works.  Will it get Zunified?  Chew on this quote from Mobile Magazine:

With Microsoft's recent acquisition of Danger, the makers of the Sidekick OS, there could be something new in the works that would effectively marry the Sidekick with Zune or Windows Mobile. In speaking with Microsoft at CES last week, I was told that "Microsoft doesn't buy something for nothing," so they are definitely working on something with Danger.

Alas, the confusion continues, but let's hope that whatever it is, that the wait is worth it.  I'm not sure I can keep going around for another year on this without a new product, whatever it is...


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Zune Phone Rumor Squashed...Again

Zune_phone_large This story of the Zune Phone, better known as the zPhone, has been on again and off again more times than anyone can keep count.  With iPhone sales so strong, many are hoping that Microsoft will play in this arena with a truly compelling product.  Many of us can also see how the Zune platform could form the basis of a really great smartphone.  Unfortunately, the folks at Microsoft are not sharing our vision. 

In an interview today with Microsoft's Robbie Bach (President, Microsoft Entertainment & Devices), he once again makes the definitive statement that Microsoft is not going to do a Zune Phone.  They are sticking with the Windows Mobile platform, and want others to do the hardware.  After all, Microsoft is a software company, right?

Well, that's what they said before they jumped into gaming with the XBox, and music with the Zune, both hardware platforms for their software.  I think it does mean that the Zune Phone is definitely not debuting at CES this time around.  Too bad, as it just means that Apple will get another year lead before Microsoft decides that their hardware partners are not doing the job up to snuff and decide to take it on themselves.  Let the rumors begin for next year...


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Tis the Season For Zune Predictions

30904_logo This time of year, as we wind down the holiday shopping, the tech predictions get ramped up.  It seems like every editor of every news outlet puts in their two cents of what will happen over the next year in the world of technology.

Over at PC Magazine, you know the place that decided to stop publishing their magazine (despite the name), is offering their soothsaying for 2009 from editor Lance Ulanoff.  Here's what he's thinking for the Zune:

Microsoft will discontinue the Zune in favor of Zune phones. The Internet is buzzing with rumors that Microsoft is planning to put Zunes into a whole new generation of smartphones. If this happens (and it will), the original Zune player will be collateral damage.

WTF?  I mean, huh?  Yeah, we've all been talking about the possiblity of a Zune Phone for many months now.  We also think that Microsoft is releasing some new smartphone stuff in the near future, probably at CES next month.  However, do we really think that the regular Zune will go by the wayside so easily?  I seriously think not.  After all, even with the success of the iPhone, I haven't seen the disapperance of the iPod Classic or the iPod Nano line.  I also think that Microsoft has too much invested into the Zune device to write it off, even if the zPhone's monthly fees might be more attractive in the short term.  How are you all seeing this?


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