Connecting the Microsoft Connected Entertainment dots

Connecting the Microsoft Connected Entertainment dots

Summary: Microsoft's streaming music-service complement to the current Zune Music platform may get its debut at the E3 conference in June, according to a new report.


You know the story of the blind men and the elephant? That's what I feel like whenever I try to piece together the ever-evolving Microsoft "connected entertainment strategy.

The overarching idea sounds deceptively simple: Offer users games, music and video across all their screens -- TVs, consoles, PCs, tablets and phones.

Right now, Microsoft is partially there. It has been working with various studios and labels to try to secure the rights to make this happen. On the video side, the Softies have been rolling out new relationships with various carriers over the past several months to enable Xbox Live users to partake of more video and TV content on their consoles.

It seems the music component will be next up, with Microsoft ready to show off its new music service, codenamed Woodstock, according to Tom Warren at the Verge, as soon as early June at E3. Woodstock seems to be the Spotify-like service Microsoft has been working on for the past several months. According to The Verge, Microsoft is looking to bring the service to non-Microsoft devices and phones, too.

Zune Music and Zune Video already are on Xbox and act as "channels," or apps on Xbox, alongside third-party apps like, Netflix, etc. The idea with Woodstock is to add ad-supported streaming to these existing Zune services, according to one of my contacts who asked not to be named. The Zune Music and add-on Woodstock streaming service are all  expected at some point in the not-too-distant future to finally be renamed as Xbox-something. (I'd note that the Musiwave folks Microsoft acquired back in 2007 seem to be referring to the back-end platform simply as "Xbox Live Music" in their job postings.)

The Microsoft Music app preview that debuted along with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview also sounds like it will become part of Microsoft's evolving Xbox-something music platform. And there will be a browser-based version of the Woodstock streaming service, too, my contact said, confirming the Verge's report. (Maybe this explains in part why there's no Windows Media Player built into coming Windows RT tablets. Users will be expected to rely on the Woodstock streaming service for their music content, perhaps.)

Microsoft is doing more than just phasing out the Zune name. Late last year, the company signaled (but never actually said explicitly) that the ZuneHD is the last of the dedicated media players the company will provide. And earlier this week, the Redmondians said they were removing the Windows Phone app option from the Zune client software.

This removal is the first of several steps the company is expected to take along its road to replacing the Zune software client (that thing formerly known by codename "Dorado") with some kind of an ActiveSync service. This is expected to happen by the time Windows Phone 8 debuts at the end of this year.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can clean up the branding and user experience around music enough to make its coming platform attractive not just to Microsoft loyalists, but to those using non-Microsoft devices, too.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Tablets, 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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  • Unfortunately streaming is still a crappy solution for video and music so I

    sure hope they have something in there for seamlessly integrating locally stored music and video from all the shared libraries on the local network.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Maybe something that works

      Around at an uncle's place yesterday to help with a new digital video camera and media device. He's the one holdout from the move to Mac.

      Now I've setup a few Apple TVs for friends, easy 1 minute job.

      Over an hour to connect a WD TV device to a windows 7 PC. Windows Network control panel a joke. WMP doesn't even list mp4s - the most popular video codec used today. The experience was real surprise given both the competitive offerings and the spirited defence of this platform here on this board.
      Richard Flude
  • Service of a thousand radio stations

    What I think MS should do, is eventually allow groups of artists to set up their own radio stations via a service, and let them enjoy revenues from their radio stations more directly. These could be parts of networks, where artists pool their talents, and make use of relatively low cost (for the artists) services, to reach out, engage, and build up their fan base, through subscriptions. So instead of music artists trying to accumulate wealth around records - which give them one time, lottery type shots at making money - they create wealth around networks, which they build up, maintain, and use to keep their audience engaged, with a range of individual and collaborative type entertainment.
    P. Douglas
    • Providing labels allow

      services and artist the ability to do that.

      Though it is a good idea.
      William Farrel
      • That's the problem..

        While I agree it is a great idea for artists to offer their own streaming services, this would only work for artist's who own their own catalogue, and that is a rather small number and certainly wouldn't include any artist in the last 10 years more than likely. Many bands early on signed bad deals which meant that they can collect royalties, but the actual catalogue is owned by the label, this is also standard procedure for today's artists although strides are being made now that the Internet has allowed more freedom for artists to distribute their own works.
      • Supporting the above business model


        If tech companies like MS (or tech companies working in conjunction with companies like MS) financially support and help develop the above business model, I believe it could take off. By that I mean, if the aforementioned companies support scenarios, like the following, things could work.

        An artist could go to a company which he pays $x to produce a song and music video - while retaining the copyrights. The artist could upload his track to a viral radio station and music video station service, which plays songs with increasing frequency, based on the amount of likes, and requests or views they receive. The artist could agree to take a standard cut of revenue from the service. If the artist does well, he could use his success as a means of joining a network. At the network, he could perform his own songs, cover songs, and do this individually or collaboratively with others on musical shows produced by the network. (Users could also enter networks through competitions, etc.)

        So why would companies like MS, Google, and Apple support the above business model? Because they could wrest control of entertainment from old media, and develop technology quickly in tandem with entertainment - rather than have entertainment constantly at odds with tech. Tech companies would be better able to monetize entertainment, and entertainment would increasingly view tech as a means improving business (spending more money on tech) rather than an impediment.
        P. Douglas
      • Already done, sucessful

        @P. Douglas

        Apple has already done this, with iTunes. It works.
  • The Right Direction

    The XBox popularity and the multitude of updated capabilities have reached an audience that I don't really see any other internet based living room entertainment platform reaching.

    What I mean is that the XBox experience started off really just being a game console (and grown to be a very popular one) is now becoming that one stop box with services for everything. If it had a cable card slot or dongle attachment for cable TV it would be a one box to rule them all. Some people say the lack of direct cable input is plus with the future of TV going to IP based.

    The XBox has given Microsoft a major leg up over Google and Apple in the living room entertainment area. And it's more comprehensive than the other options out there. The games component is what is keeping the current Apple TV and Google TV from really growing in market share. Google TV may have some come back if it can get integrated as the OS of new TVs coming out. The XBox starting off as a powerful gaming console got the devices sold and into peoples living rooms. The capabilities that are continually being updated and added are making more devoted fans and are making some people buy the device without even considering games. That's the tipping point. I see the next gen of XBox being a big seller and I see the current XBox still staying quite useful in homes that already have them.

    And to think the XBox started off as pretty much a failure, but MS just kept pushing it along. Hopefully the same strategy will push Windows Phone to get more users too.

    Generally MS has lost that broadbase consumer fan to Apple and Google, but the XBox has turned it around. With the new ecosystem being so tightly integrated, I think there is a chance that Windows can become a household name one again that is thought more than just a PC.

    I think Microsoft is really moving in the right direction right now.
    • While most of this is true

      You might notice that the current Apple TV is more or less an low-cost iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch) wired to the HDTV and with remote.

      There is nothing to prevent Apple from letting any game that can play on these iOS devices to play on the Apple TV. The Apple TV already runs iOS. They also do sort of this with AirPlay to mirror the display of the handheld iOS device. So, at least Apple is already there + they have really good deals with the music and movies industry via iTunes and the thing is already integrated with iCloud.
  • Does Microsoft really think...

    That branding the music ecosystem around the XBOX is a good idea? IT IS NOT!

    It is not because XBOX succeeded in the gaming market that the brand should be leveraged for the music ecosystem. Microsoft, you're aiming your future product toward the wrong audience if this actually is your plan.

    Can someone tell me who the hell is making these decisions?
  • Microsoft should've done this from the start...

    I think Microsoft is finally on the right track by connecting its entertainment products & services to XBox. They should've done this from the start.

    Regardless, I'm looking forward to the new service.
    • They didn't have the vision, unfortunately

      Microsoft, being "nothing but Windows on Intel!!!" type of kid did not really believe much in Xbox. I think they are a bit surprised in the success of the Xbox and this, in addition to the mobile device revolution lead by others, made them rethink many things. But.. let's hope they truly understand what the Xbox can offer.
  • "X" is a good letter for Microsoft...

    Think about it. XP was Microsoft's most successful operating system. And the Xbox fought its way to the top of the very competitive gaming sector. Could it be that "Windows X" (Windows 10) could be the OS that finally puts Microsoft on top again? Perhaps. "X" was a great number for Apple as well. I mean, most of Apple's rise to greatness happened under OS X.

    Anyway, "X" is an interesting letter symbolically. All of the lines intersect in the middle--much like what Microsoft is trying to do by bringing all of its various products together under one OS.

    One has to wonder whether an "X-Phone" or "Xune" music service might've fared better than the existing products. Maybe one day we'll know... ;)