Last week Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed in an interview with CIO magazine that the Microsoft Zune software would be ported to the Windows Mobile smartphone platform. In case you missed it, or just forgot, the Zune was Microsoft’s response to the Apple iPod and iTunes Music Store. However, the Zune never quite took off the same way. But as with other Microsoft products it is slowly going along but shows no sign of going away.
As with the iPod and iTunes the idea was to create a portable Mp3 player that uses proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management) software. In this case it was a version of Microsoft’s own PlaysForSure DRM, which meant that songs bought from the Zune Marketplace are only playable on the Zune Mp3 player. This was an odd step because Microsoft had developed the PlaysForSure technology to work with a number of devices, giving numerous companies the power to take on the iPod. Since the Zune didn’t use the same PlayForSure it sort of turned this platform into Don’tCountOnItPlayingForSure.
But now Microsoft looks to be taking the bold step of increasing the Zune’s potential by putting the Zune PlayForSure on Windows Mobile smartphones. This would certainly make those phones a bit more attractive to those looking for a device beyond the iPhone.
However, this still begs the question as whether one device can really do it all. Obviously people want to carry fewer devices, but given the current battery issues—which is still a long way from being fully resolved—is an all-in-one device really the best option. Smartphone makers still aren’t clever enough to resolve the battery issue. Too often you’re left with a device with plenty of applications, but a rapidly drained battery so using it as a phone isn’t one of the options.
And given that the hype this year is already on the Google Android-enabled T-Mobile G1, the Zune once again looks to be too little and way too late.