Back in the saddle at work today after an extended vacation :).
Billboard has a good write up about a new Microsoft project under the brand name, “Zune“. I’ve received a few phone calls and emails asking for comment, but prefer to make my thoughts known here. Let me first say I’m not a member of the Zune team and in no way speak for them or Microsoft in an official capacity on this topic. With that out of the way, here’s my take.
From what I’ve learned, Zune is a new brand for Microsoft – Zune is about community, music and entertainment discovery. You’ll experience Zune with a family of devices and software that bring it all together. Yes, we all want more details, but we’ll have to be a little patient for more details. Check out www.comingzune.com and sign up if you want more details.
One question that gets asked here is the relationship to our existing PlaysforSure program. The Windows digital media team (of which I’ve been a member) has been focused on raising the tide for all boats, raising the experience for many partners through programs like PlaysforSure, giving sessions on 360 degree product design at partner events, offering frank feedback on product designs when requested and more. We want Windows to be the best place to experience digital music and entertainment. The Windows team will continues to work closely with service and device partners to make Windows a great platform for any digital media.
And one need only look as far as the MP3 player/portable media player market to find other examples of taking multiple approaches. At least two of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers compete on not one, not two, but three levels:
They supply memory for their own, and competitive MP3 players
They design and sell MP3 “engines” (systems on a chip) for their own, and competitive MP3 device manufacturers
They design, build and compete for retail space for their own, branded MP3 players
There are many other examples that can be drawn within Microsoft as well – for example, Microsoft Game Studios competes with independent game publishers for consumer dollars on the same platform (Xbox) also built by Microsoft. In all these cases, relationships of trust must be established independently between product groups or divisions. The same holds true here as well. It’s hard to understand unless you’re inside Microsoft but these groups have separate P&Ls (Profit/Loss metrics) and that sometimes means trying different strategies. To quote Jonathan Sasse, President of iRiver America in a recent CNet News.com article:
“Microsoft is a great partner and we expect continued success moving forward. The potential launch of a device by Microsoft does not appear to threaten our relationship in any way.”
I personally hope, like Jonathan, that this new effort will help to raise the tide once again for all players as the so-called digital lifestyle continues to evolve. PlaysforSure continues to be a Windows effort with some 140+ products in the market today and with the recently updated PlaysforSure 2.01 specification, the experience bar will be raised even higher. Zune is a part of a different group and P&L, but an integral part of Microsoft’s vision for “connected entertainment” that spans across offerings including as games, music and devices. So that’s my take on it.
(To learn more about the Zune community, check out Cesar’s new site at www.Zuneinsider.com or the official teaser site at www.comingzune.com, which will offer more information when available. For more on PlaysforSure devices available today, see http://www.playsforsure.com)
Update0: Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times weighs in on my post here.
Update1: Richard Winn, a member of the Zune team and new to Microsoft is blogging at www.madisonandpine.com
Update2: Chris Pirillo says the post is a link worth loading and notes I’m one of the Microsoft employees he trusts – thanks Chris 🙂