Ballmer: Zune services coming to 'next release' of Windows Mobile

Ballmer: Zune services coming to 'next release' of Windows Mobile

Summary: In response to Engadget's questions on when the Zune music and video services will come to Windows Mobile, CEO Steve Ballmer said Zune services would definitely be available in conjunction with the next Windows Mobile release. But which release did he mean?


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer really made the rounds on October 22 to help kick off Windows 7. One stop he made was the Engadget Show, which was taped live in Times Square.

Ballmer was a lot more direct than Microsoft Entertainment and Device Division President Robbie Bach, when it comes to answering questions about Microsoft's mobile and device strategies. (Not a high bar, given Bach's reticence to even acknowledge the existence of anything codenamed "Pink.") Ballmer did offer a few tidbits during the show yesterday that I found interesting, though still somewhat cryptic.

In response to Engadget's questions on when the Zune music and video services will come to Windows Mobile, Ballmer said Zune services would definitely be available in conjunction with the next Windows Mobile release.

But as the folks over at the MobileTechWorld blog note, that answer is still somewhat murky. Microsoft is strongly believed to be readying a 6.5.x or 6.7 release of Windows Mobile, which many are expecting the company to release on or around the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2010. That release supposedly enables Windows Mobile to work on capacitive touch-screen phones. Microsoft officials continue to refuse to say if and when that release will be coming.

Engadget also asked Ballmer about the photos of the Pink phones (codenamed Turtle and Pure) that were leaked on Gizmodo last month. Are either of these the rumored Microsoft-branded phones that many of us heard are -- or at least "were" -- in the works?

"We are not shipping, pricing  or selling phones. As of today, that's not our plan," Ballmer told Engadget's Josh Topolsky yesterday.

This is a more definitive statement than Bach or anyone else at Microsoft has made about the rumored Pink phones. (As I've noted previously, Microsoft officials have been able to wriggle out of repeated questions about whether Microsoft is planning to make its own phone because Microsoft doesn't actually "make" any hardware. Other vendors make it for the Redmondians.

With Pink, most recent rumors seemed to indicate that Sharp was the company making the Pink phones that Microsoft and Sharp were considering they'd cobrand. Ballmer's new statement still leaves a lot of wriggle room, but it also leads me to believe there's a good chance that Microsoft's phone partners may have complained so vociferously about Microsoft being involved in branding/distributing its own phones that Pink may be back to nothing more than a bunch of premium services for Windows Mobile phones. (That's what I initially heard Pink was, before I got more tips indicating Pink also was the codename for a Microsoft-branded phone, as well.)

What's your take? Has Microsoft scrapped plans to cobrand a phone aimed at teens and 20-somethings? And when will Zune come to the Windows Mobile platform -- in early 2010 with an interim release or not until Windows Mobile 7?

Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, Wi-Fi, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • As if Windows Mobile wasn't slow or bloated enough already...

    not much left to say. Windows Mobile is toward the horse's heiney of mobile platforms, right now and I doubt Apple or RIM will screw up their products just to let proven crapware back in...

    In a socialized world, there's a place for microsoft. In a free market, nobody wants poorly built crap.
  • will there be a 'next release'

    That is the question we should ask!
    Linux Geek
  • Would you buy a smartphone from this man?

    Read the quotes below, and ask yourself two questions.
    1) As a consumer, are you confident that when
    Microsoft's cobranded phone ships whether that
    platform is likely to succeed, or whether this is
    another Zune/PlaysForSure that will eventually just go
    away and 2) As an investor, would you place your
    clients money, or your own, on the phone strategy of a
    man who has been so demonstrably wrong about the phone
    market in the past.


    "Let?s face it, the Internet was designed for the PC.
    The Internet is not designed for the iPhone. That?s
    why they?ve got 75,000 applications ? they?re all
    trying to make the Internet look decent on the

    That's right - Ballmer says that the 75,000 apps
    available for iPhone are somehow a bad thing; that
    they're all frantically scrambling to "make the
    internet look decent."

    Let's roll the tape back to April of 2007. He tells
    USA Today:

    "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any
    significant market share. No chance," said Ballmer.
    "It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of
    money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3
    billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our
    software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to
    have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get."

    Nearest stats I can find for smartphone market share
    put iPhone at 13%. That's just smartphones, not all
    phones, but that is a heck of a lot of Apple chrome
    and glass moving and AT&T is signing up customers
    faster than ever. Expensive, data plan customers.

    Lastly, lets remember Ballmers famous exchange in
    January of 2007 with Scott Wapner.

    After reading this, ask yourself if this is a man who
    understands this market, and whether you have faith in
    him to develop a winning strategy in smart phones and
    execute that strategy resulting in profits. (Or is
    this the next super-expensive Ballmer hobby)

    (If I may jeer from the sidelines a second, pay
    special attention to his remark that the Q phone will
    "do music, it'll do, uh, Internet" In the years since
    January 07 I think it's safe to say that the iPhone
    will, uh, 'do internet' in a way consumers will pay
    more for than this Q phone will, uh, do internet)

    ("I like our strategy, I like it a lot." Class?
    Technology enthusiasts? Investors? Do you like his

    Wapner: Steve, let me ask you about the iPhone and the
    Zune, if I may. The Zune was getting some traction and
    Steve Jobs goes to Macworld and he pulls out this
    iPhone. What was your first reaction when you saw

    Ballmer: (laughs) $500 full-subsidized with a plan! I
    said that is the most expensive phone in the world and
    it doesn't appeal to business customers because it
    doesn't have a keyboard which makes it not a very good
    email machine. Now, it may sell very well or not, I,
    you know. We have our strategy, we've got great
    Windows Mobile devices in the market today, we, you
    can get a Motorola Q phone now for $99, it's a very
    capable machine, it'll do music, it'll do, uh,
    Internet, it'll do email, it'll do instant messaging.
    So, I, I kinda look at that and I say, well, I like
    our strategy. I like it a lot.

    Wapner: How do you compete with that though? He sucked
    out a lot of the spotlight in the last few weeks
    because of what happened at Macworld, not only with
    the iPhone, but with the new iPod. How do you compete
    with that, with the Zune?

    Ballmer: Right now, well, let's take phones first.
    Right now we're selling millions and millions and
    millions of phones a year, Apple is selling zero
    phones a year (half smile). In six months, they'll
    have the most expensive phone by far ever in the
    marketplace (laughs) and let's see (shrugs), you know,
    eh, what's the expression, let's see how the
    competition goes. In the case of music and
    entertainment players, Apple ob.., uh, absolutely has
    a preeminent position. We said we wanna be in this
    market, there's a lot of reasons why there's synergy
    with other things that we're doing, we think we've got
    some unique innovations - particularly what we're
    doing with community, with wireless networking. And,
    we came into the market, a market in which they are
    very strong, and we took, I don't know, but I think
    most estimates would say we took about 20-25% of the
    high end of the market. We weren't down at some of the
    lower price points, but for devices $249 and over we
    took, you know, let's say about 20% of the market. So,
    I feel like we're in the game, we're driving our
    innovation hard, uh, and, uh, okay, we're not the
    incumbent, he's the incumbent in this game, but, uh,
    at the end of the day, he's going to have to keep up,
    uh, an agenda that we're gonna drive as well.
  • Wow, 100% trolls above me!!

    For something that no one seems to care about, a lot of you seem to care about it!!! Ask yourself this: if this was a dying platform, why is so much energy being expended in order to convince people how bad this platform is? If it was as bad as they say it is, it would die on its own. Unfortunately, sales of WM keep going up and up and the army has even dumped the iPhone for a WM / Redfly combination. Even Apple is forced to use WM to process iPhone sales because their platform simply can't handle it! That isn't the sign of a dying platform and the more that you people foam at the mouth about it, the more you prove my point. :)

    Oh, and for the FUD about WM not supporting capacative screens, the HTC HD2 has a capacative screen. Please, only you can stop the FUD.
    • With that the kettle called the pot up...

      ...and called him black.

      I can only assume he didn't use an iPhone to do it.

      I love how Trolls see Trolls everywhere they look.
      • Are you suggesting those above me weren't trolling?

        Yes or no? Simple question.
        • Since you are not smart enough to understand old sayings...

          ...I'll bring it down to your level. Well Duh! Of course they were.

          Its what you do and can't see how annoying it is?

          • Thanks for confirming what I wrote

            [i]Well Duh! Of course they were.[/i]

            Thank you, I'm glad you agreed with what I wrote.
          • Now...

            ...since I answered you will you confirm what I wrote?

            You yourself is also troll and very, very annoying.
          • Refusing to hold double standards doesn't make me a troll

            I know that the overwhelming pro-Apple, anti-MS bias of ZDNet makes my statements unpopular but I don't see why Apple should get a pass for things like a 30% dropped call rate with the iPhone. I shall continue combating FUD and speaking the truth no matter how much it upsets those with an unnatural emotional attachment to a multi-national, multi-billion $$$/year, mega corporation named Apple. If that offends you, so be it. It sounds like that is more your problem than mine. :)
          • Then what is your love affair with a multi-national...

            multi-billion mega corp named MS that you never hold to task for
            anything and actually think have a competitive OS in WinMo?

            You are nothing but a standard troll. You might even do this for a living
            if you really think ZDNet is "pro-Apple" with their MS cheerleaders Ed
            Bott and MJF.

    • And that includes you too [nt]

  • My guess is WM7 for Zune but, what about the rumors that pink...

    fell apart because of internal leadership issues? How does that play into all of this Mary Jo?

    Perhaps that is why they can definitively say they have no plans of making a phone.
    • Have you noticed that MS doesn't make PC's

      It's the same reason they don't make phones:

      MS' primary business model centers around building a software (and now services) platform that partners can adopt and use their specialist skills to leverage in order to create great products that people want to buy.

      Apple, on the other hand, wants a closed ecosytem that they, and they alone control.

      They're two entirely different business models. MS' is all about variety and choice. Apple's is all about single-vendor solution, control and limited choice.

      There are pro's and con's with each, but MS' appears to have been the more successful of the two models considering the sheer enormity and strength of the Windows PC marketplace.
      • Where has this business model ever worked

        outside of PC OS's? Microsoft seems to have only
        that hammer in its toolbox, but it does not seem
        to be repeatable in other areas.
        PlaysForSure was the perfect example.
      • What happened to Windows Mobile???

        [i]MS' primary business model centers around building a software (and
        now services) platform that partners can adopt and use their specialist
        skills to leverage in order to create great products that people want to

        Their strategy seems to have seriously failed them on this one.

        You are right that they are two different business models.

        Microsofts's is all about inconsistent and confusing options with brand
        dilution along with over all lack of control of end quality products.
        Apple's is about providing a superior end user experience with
        consistent and predictable results.

        There are pro's and con's with each, but Apple's appears to have been
        the more successful in mobile space of the two models considering
        the sheer enormity and strength of how the iPhone completely
        eclipsed Windows Mobile in less than 2 years.
  • They should make it available for other platforms too

    Quite frankly, any advantage they can get over Apple would be worth their effort. I would certainly give it serious consideration if made available to Android.
    Michael Kelly
  • @NonZealot who had a hissy fit and stopped receiving replies

    I use a range of OS's and find that Zdnet is pretty fair. At times there are definitely biases and preferences that the Trolls seem to want to jump all over because of their preferences and biases.

    You are a troll that spreads FUD. Proof you ask. I have an iPhone. My wife has an iPhone. 60% of my department have an iPhone (20 iPhones total)and none of them can remember their last dropped call. So the 30% looks like FUD. Now we are on Rogers and not AT&T so maybe it is a carrier thing.

    Do you need other examples of your trollishness?
    • It depends of course

      in the area you live/work in. Some places simply get better AT&T service than others. However if you were to average them out, I would not be surprised to see the average in the 30% neighborhood. And there was an actual statement by Apple employees acknowledging this issue (I'm sure NZ has this bookmarked).

      Also you word your subject as if NZ intentionally turned off replies. That's a ZDNet issue, they have a limit to how deep a thread can go.
      Michael Kelly
      • Well then I owe him a Coke for that one.

        He still acts like a Troll.

        I haven't heard and issue with the iPhone dropping like that here in Canada on Rogers and up here there is a whole webpage devoted to any possible iPhone/Rogers issue. Most of the complaints are around data plans up here.

        With everything I hear up here in regards to AT&T have they ruled out AT&T with that issue?