Did Microsoft miss the boat...again?

Microsoft had all the components in place to start the cloud music wars. Why are they still unheard from?

Despite making a nice mouse, Microsoft has never been successful as a hardware company.  You would think that someone, somewhere in Redmond, might notice their continual failure in the hardware arena, and try to keep the company on track, focusing on putting software on as much hardware as possible, from as many different vendors as possible, in every market they can conceive of. Even the Zune, which was a decent piece of hardware, would have been yet another abject failure if not for the software, which Microsoft seems to have realized with the apparent fact that the next Zune platform is Windows Phone, which is a case where Microsoft is not producing the hardware.

But take a look at the recent news regarding the cloud and music. Amazon released their Amazon MP3 service with smartphone clients, Google released their Music service, and it is being predicted that the Apple iCloud announcement will be a music streaming service of some type.  Are we seeing the theme here?

So what major vendor has existing music and video software, in both desktop and mobile form, an existing cloud storage product, an existing cloud infrastructure model with a major need to promote it as much as possible in order to encourage adoption, and, oh yeah, an existing paid music subscription service with a decent size subscriber base and a pretty decent usage model, that, with a monthly "free songs" model effectively costs only $30/year (if you are an active buyer of music).

That would be Microsoft.  And the Zune Pass program.

I can only think of one potential glitch in Microsoft targeting a Zune app at additional platforms (Android would be the best bet.) Specifically, is there any contractual reason that MS could not develop a Zune for Android in order to deliver content?  The anti-MS bias of Android users we sometimes  see here on ZDnet is not widespread among actual phone users, and anyone I have ever mentioned or demonstrated the Zune Pass to has wondered why they can't get something like that for their device (regardless of manufacturer).

Similarly, Microsoft could actually deploy real DRM to Android phones, and once again, the DRM hate we hear is limited to highly technical users; the vast majority of people with any sort of music player just don't care (if they did iTunes wouldn't be so successful).

The availability of a real DRM solution would also encourage the availability of more content for the Android platform. This would be a big win for Microsoft.  While it might dilute the customer base for Windows Phones (though if Zune software is the only thing that WP has going for it, it's in deep trouble) it, more importantly, hits Apple directly in a significant ongoing revenue stream.  It also has the potential to make MS the strongest app vendor in the Google mobile market, something that would drive Google nuts.


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