Did Microsoft miss the boat...again?

Did Microsoft miss the boat...again?

Summary: 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.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft, Security

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  • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatâ?¦again?

    Well the explanation is quite simple actually. If you are wasting your time then nothing comes of it LOL
    • You are going to fry your brain ...


      repeating that idea over and over again. Although I guess there cannot be a whole lot there to fry.
      • Microsoft did good hardware, but not before losing billions of dollars on

        @Economister: ... it because of replaces -- I mean XBox. But now it is quite decent hardware, as well as Kinect.
  • As usual ........

    MS seems to have trouble deciding what to do. Or actually doing it?
    • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

      @Economister that is pretty much it... they tout themselves as a software company, but I think they are on the edge and nervous to jump full on into the hardware market. Truth be said, people want pretty and fancy designed into their hardware and as of now Microsoft has only maked sniped attemts and then backs off...

      If they want to compete they need to build "cool" stuff becasue it seems the hardware companies aren't. I dont get it.
  • DRM, are you kidding me?

    "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)" - iTunes is so successful because the iPod was and is the single most innovative portable music device on the planet. iTunes is the simplest way to get music on your device. Those two factors are why iTunes is so successful, not because music lovers in general don't care about DRM.
    • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?


      I have to disagree; if DRM was the deal breaker to the average person that it is to those who spend time complaining about it, iTunes would have been a deal breaker for the iPod.
      David Chernicoff
      • More importantly, .....

        @David Chernicoff

        the ultimate objective is to charge you a small amount every time you play a song, regardless of device. You own nothing and pay EVERY time you play.

        Anybody who says consumers do not care, have no clue.
      • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

        @David Chernicoff well why did Apple drop DRM from itunes store like a hot potato then?
    • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

      @WD_Services Depends on your needs as to what is simplest. I have all my music acquired over the years from CDs, cassettes and even albums stored on a hard disk, zip disk, mp3 cd, thumbdrive... When I want to place them on my phone, NOT a windows phone, I just connect it to the PC, mount the SD then open up explorer and drag and drop it. iPod didn't invent what they have, they just did a better job of doing it, ALOT better. Now everyone does it, so unless you just like your same old grilled cheese sammich and want to carry it around with you even though you have access to say... bacon bits... you go right ahead.

      The Dusenberg was "the single most innovative portable traveling device on the planet" but now they are relics in museums.
    • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

      @WD_Services I believe you are mixing up innovative with well marketed. Nothing about the iPod was innovative. They just did the best job selling it.
      • Hmmm, marketing...

        I believe you have got the companies mixed up. Lots about the iPod was innovative - most of it can be summed up as simplicity. On the other hand, nothing about Windows was innovative, MS just did the best job of marketing it, while making darn sure that few people had real access to any alternative.
  • Zune name should change.

    The name Zune conjures up desolate visions of failure. If they want any sort of mindshare, they should change the name and sell the service as something totally new.

    Say what you will, Apple presents a united front with no second guessing. When they talk about their new iCloud service or the iOS 5, you know for sure they've already planned for long term support for these technologies. A case in point is the original iPod and its DRM.

    Microsoft's repeated half-baked failures in some of these domains don't inspire confidence in a lot of people. The Zune and the Kin fall squarely in this camp.
    • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

      @kraterz Zune doesn't conjure up any visions, that was its problem. Zune is where you purchase movies on the xbox, that doesn't conjure up failure.
  • Wait and see

    AT&T and Verizon are both moving away from unlimited data plans. Your personal music or video stored on the Internet that must be streamed potentially over a cellular pipe that has an upper limit sounds like a bad idea. For now, I would say that M$ has the opportunity to take a wait and see approach. And, this doesn't even get into the major limitation of not having connectivity to the Internet from time-to-time. Therefore, it's nice that Apple, Google, and Amazon are all moving in that direction, but this appears to be somewhat ahead of its time.
    • Wait and see...

      @jjworleyeoe "Wait and see" is how the 'follow the leader' game is played.

      Microsoft does not innovate and never has. Here's a decent review on the subject: http://www.dwheeler.com/innovation/microsoft.html
  • RE: Did Microsoft miss the boatagain?

    MS missed the boat again. They were waiting for it at the airport.
  • Zunepass is great

    Zunepass is great and if it worked on more devices I'd be happy about that.

    I hate DRM but in this rental based model it works well and is necessary. I paid $150 for a year of music, can download 120 songs over the course of that year in DRM free MP3 format (which would cost me $154.80 on ITunes at $1.29/song so I save $4.80) and get access to 4 million + songs during the year to listen to as much as I want for as long as I keep my subscription active. What's not to like? I used to buy a CD a month 15 years ago, now for less than the cost of 1 CD I get to own 10 songs outright and listen to all the rest.

    I have an HTC Arrive WP7 device and it's fantastic to be out, hear a song, Shazam it, press the zune button, download it to my phone, then when my phone is charging at night have the song automatically sync to my desktop media center. From there my wife's Zune syncs it and our music is on all of our devices. Hassle free and fantastic workflow. But most people don't even know about it.

  • How about a bargaining chip, here ... huh?

    Well, I don't see it as a loss, rather I see it for what it really is; this is an opportunity for Microsoft Zune chip makers and the rest of the Rhapsodials to give Apple a heads up on alternative research discoveries from all of this. "Branching from the minds eye is the futility and fertility of creation." -- Gene Hubert Eisner American Critic, 1949
  • Anyone remember the MS music service before the Zune?

    They turned off the DRM servers a couple of years ago, so if you have to re-install windows, your purchased music files are useless. I find DRM suspicious, and DRM from Microsoft completely untrustworthy!