Many of you out there remember the Zune. I, in fact, own two of them. The Zune set out to battle against the iPod in the portable music player and honestly, is smoked the iPod. If it had been released earlier it would have become the number one player if not a solid number two. The problem for the Zune was not that is was a bad product, the problem was that the market was changing.
As PDA’s had proven just what portable electronics could do, it was only a matter of time before they were combined with a cell phone. Now the first smartphone was years before this but it was not until PDA makers started adding phone capabilities to their devices in the early 2000’s this smartphone really took off here in the US and even then it has taken a decade.
Microsoft had created something called Windows Mobile which would power many early Pocket PC and PDA devices and would be used for Smartphones as well. Windows Mobile was really meant as portable productivity software and would never be a good media playing device. Windows Mobile did include Windows Media Player but it was a pain to use without a stylus. In fact, when Microsoft did get media players out on the market before the Zune they were based on Windows Mobile but used the Media Center interface. (and were called Portable Media Centers)
Now Apple had won over most people with the iPod and I even had an 80 Gb iPod Video (which died the other day) Apple had really jump started a portable media player marked and dominated it. Microsoft wanted a piece of the pie and created Zune but after the Zune was released Apple was getting ready to do something that would start to change things, they released the iPhone and then a little while later released the iPod Touch which used the same OS as the iPhone.
These iOS devices started something, people bought them and liked that they could download apps and expand the capabilities of the devices and they were still good media players. Now people could have an iPod that did everything they wanted to a certain extent or a phone that was also an iPod.
Microsoft noticed and responded with the Zune HD which puts any iPod Touch to shame and still does. It too had some apps you could download but the device never caught on and people did not develop for it, but it had started something that would change the company.
Many fans of the Zune HD had said that Microsoft needs to release a Zune Phone, and Microsoft denied that this would happen and would instead point to its Windows Mobile Smartphones and while Windows Mobile 6.5 was a good update it was still not enough. But Microsoft would not let the Metro interface from the Zune HD die, instead, it remade Windows Mobile into Windows Phone. And if you are like me you know Windows Phone is magical. It has apps, it always works, it looks fantastic, and it is user intuitive more than any other Smartphone out there.
Microsoft did not stop there, however, now Windows 8 is soon to be released and it too has a lot of Metro interface in it. In addition, Microsoft is releasing its own tablets called the Surface. You look that this device and it is clear that Microsoft can create great hardware. Also for the first time, you see all Microsoft products working together and really being better together but there is a whole.
The Zune was canceled long ago, and its services are being rebranded. There is no portable media player today, and no PDA either. The sad thing is I do see a market for one. I volunteer with teenagers and I see one thing they all seem to have. iPod Touch’s! Let’s face it Smartphones are expensive and so is the data use, it is not something you want to give to your kid, but an iPod Touch is cheaper and uses WiFi, also the games on it are cheaper than other portable game systems. The Zune HD was a step in the right direction but it was not enough of one but Windows Phone was. I believe that Microsoft needs to bring back the Zune using the Windows Phone software. I really think they could get in this market! (if they price it correctly remember parents are buying stuff like this for their kids and it needs to be marketed to these pre-teens and teenagers) Heck, I would buy one, a media playing device that can do everything my phone can. (I have a Windows Phone now)
So will Microsoft do this? Well as the Zune brand has been killed it will not be called that but I think they could call it something else or make it more of a portable gaming device and use Xbox branding. One thing is for sure, though, if they are considering it, they are not telling anyone.
Microsoft, please do this it would be awesome and I need a new media player.