Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Zune will go on

Microsoft? Thinking of dropping the Zune? Why, nothing could be further from the truth, apparently:

"Basically, what happened last week, Steve [Ballmer] said a couple of things about the category," said Adam Sohn, head of Microsoft's Zune marketing division, causing speculation that Microsoft would stop making Zunes. However, he clarified, "we're not getting out of the hardware business at all," adding that Microsoft is "deeply committed" to continuing to its Zune hardware strategy.

So, you've got Steve Ballmer, who runs the show, suggesting that Microsoft might be less interested in making Zune players; you've got the guy who runs the bit of the company that sells Zunes insisting that the Zune player has a happy and rosy future, and certainly you shouldn't not think about buying one. Oh no.

."The other thing Steve said, which is spot on with our strategy -- and unfortunately I think a lot of people we haven't talk to sort of took it and ran in the wrong direction -- is that we do think the Zune device is not the only place you will access the Zune experience," said Sohn. "A lot of people jumped to an 'either/or,' when in fact it's a 'both/and' situation."

Microsoft's first order of business is to deliver the Zune music service to Xbox and Windows Media Center. "We would be thinking about nailing experiences in our own platforms concurrently with, if not before we're thinking about going beyond that," said Sohn. The mobile space represents a particularly interesting opportunity for Microsoft, since it could involve developing apps for competitors like Apple and Google.

Talk of a Zune experience - and especially nailing those experiences - does at least leave you in no doubt that Sohn is a marketing guy. The question he doesn't address, but which hangs in the air, is if "the Zune experience" is about interacting Zunely with tunes through a Zune interface, then why would Microsoft continue to pour money down the drain on a loss-making hardware strategy?