Dorado: One more key to the Microsoft mobile puzzle

Dorado: One more key to the Microsoft mobile puzzle

Summary: For those attempting to decipher Microsoft's mobile roadmap, there have been codenames galore to decode. Pink. Turtle. Pure. Rouge. Zune Phone. There's one codename that isn't brand new, but is still a key piece of the Microsoft Mobile puzzle: Dorado.


For those attempting to decipher Microsoft's mobile roadmap, there have been codenames galore to decode. Pink. Turtle. Pure. Rouge. Zune Phone.

There's one codename that isn't brand new, but is still a key piece of the Microsoft Mobile puzzle: Dorado. Dorado is the codename for the Zune HD interface software for the PC. (Here's a video about Dorado that even refers to it by its codename from Central Planning TV, one of the agencies working with Microsoft on the Zune HD branding/marketing.)

As Zune HD users, of which I am one, know, the Dorado software is very un-Microsoft-like. There's no Windows Start menu, no Ribbon,  and, while it incorporates technologies developed inside Microsoft, it offers a very different kind of user experience.

Currently, Dorado is the back end hub for Zune players. But as Microsoft officials have said, the company isn't staying in the dedicated media player business; its plan is to turn Zune into a service for music subscription, video subscription and more for media players, phones, gaming consoles (and maybe PCs, too).

So what does that mean for Dorado? Does it become more iTunes-like, delivering not just current kinds of content, but also software, ebooks, games and more to Windows Phone and Xbox console users?

Microsoft isn't talking about Dorado's future. In fact, the company won't say much about the Zune PC software at all, as officials' reticence to discuss the new features and under-the-cover tweaks it made to the 4.2 Dorado "maintenance release" it pushed out last week. But others are willing to speculate on what might be next, given Microsoft's plan to allow phone makers to include Zune with their mobile phones.

"Dorado, the Zune app, is the equivalent to iTunes with Windows Mobile 7," said one Microsoft-savvy source of mine who requested anonymity. It will let you "sync content, buy content, update the device." And as the differences between dedicated MP3 players and cell phones continue to diminish, it's not much of a stretch for the Dorado app to be able to act as the back end for phones, too, the source said.

That sounds straightforward enough, in theory, but the reality is a lot more complex.

"Apple's App Store is integrated into iTunes on PC and Macs -- you buy Apps from within the iTunes interface. I suspect they'll do that with the iBook Store as well," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. "Microsoft's situation is much more fragmented because the stores differ based on device and content type. So for example, you can't access your Zune downloads or Zune Pass from the Xbox, even though both are entertainment devices, (yet) it might make a lot of sense to play music from your Xbox through your home stereo system. I don't think it matters as much with the other marketplaces -- you buy mobile apps from the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, and other types of apps from Microsoft's online store (or, more likely, directly from their vendors)."

Travis Pope, who is with the site, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Zune integrated into Windows as a replacement for the current Windows Media Player.

"I think you'll start to see Microsoft continue to fill out the Zune software's capabilities, in preparation for it's inclusion in the next version of Windows. In the fall we noticed hidden half implemented support for Internet Radio. Even in the recently released 4.2 update Microsoft added libraries to the software. When people talk iTunes alternatives on Windows they don't mention Windows Media Player. Why would they? The spotlight is on Zune. Now they'll add features from Windows Media Player, and once they're done, it'll be taken out back and shot, as it should be."

Pope also said he thinks video will be Microsoft's biggest differentiator from iTunes and other vendor-specific solutions.

"Music, podcasts, and TV shows aren't the reason you create your own vertical solution and lock out everyone else there. Let's not forget iTunes does Music, TV Shows, Podcasts, Apps, iTunes U, and audiobooks. Microsoft needs a trump card, and my money is on video. iTunes has music locked up, but steaming video, and downloads is clearly anyone's game. Zune Video Pass anyone?"

If and when phones can use the Zune software to update and sync, certain changes would likely be made to the Zune app, said Zune Most Valuable Professional (MVP), Marques Lyons, founder of

"I would think that the software should be able to detect when a Windows Phone is connected and give it a little icon like it does current Zune devices. Should people be able to name their phones in the same manner that they name their Zune device? Sure, why not? It should also be able to tell you how much memory is on said phone so that you can effectively put the media you want on it."

Making Dorado the hub for phones isn't a trivial task, said Makram Daou, editor of the site.

"Microsoft will have to find a way to merge the Zune service with Windows Mobile Center on Windows.. That's one thing, The next one is to finally make Zune (the player) the default media player on Windows Mobile handsets. I say 'player,' because I don't think that Microsoft is currently in the position to offer what iTunes does in terms of being a music marketplace for the world."

Microsoft won't be able to ban carriers from implementing their own music stores on Windows Mobile phones, Daou noted, so Microsoft will have to strike deals with carriers to make the Zune Marketplace the exclusive marketplace for particular phones. Then there's the question of how Microsoft will handle Zune videos on Windows Mobile.

"Bandwidth is going to be a problem so it will probably be downloadable content (like on iTunes) first, then SilverLight streaming in 2011/2012," Daou said.

No one to whom I talked mentioned the dreaded "A" word (antitrust). To what extent can Microsoft integrate the Zune software in Windows without setting off a new rash of antitrust complaints? (Perhaps if the Zune software simply replaces Windows Media Player, that will be less of an issue?)

In any case, I'll be curious what Microsoft has to say not just on the mobile operating-system front with Windows Mobile 7 and Pink phones/devices, but also on the Dorado/Zune interface software side of the equation in the next couple of months. Anyone else have any thoughts/guesses as to what's in store for Dorado?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, 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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Stop beating the dead horse.

  • Zune = PlaysForSure

    Microsoft wants to put a Zune music player in OEM's handsets. Therefore, Microsoft is licensing it to manufacturers.

    This should set off alarm bells for the OEMs. We've been here before, when Microsoft licensed its PlaysForSure music platform to OEMs to compete against iPod.

    Those OEMs that took part got badly burned. Lesson learned.
    • No worries here......

      The music I download from Zune Pass for my personal keeping are DRM free. Yeah lesson learned also by Microsoft, I doubt they will re-visit the PlayForSure days.
    • Yawn. Problem is, you haven't learned your lesson (nt)

      John Zern
    • Zune != PlaysForSure

      The BIG difference is that Microsoft licensed their protocols and formats to IHV & ISV's so that they could build their own devices running their own software.

      Zune is built and supported by Microsoft so carriers wouldn't have the implementation & support costs to worry about. I am pretty certain that MS will end up sharing the proceeds of the subscriptions run through the operators' handsets with the operators as part of the deal.
    • Aaahum - You have been served...nt

    • LOL

      Music downloaded as part of the ZunePass subscription package is obviously DRMed.

      The 10 songs you get to keep every month are just like songs you can buy, and most songs offered for purchase through Zune are DRM-free MP3s. Those that aren't have burn rights, so you can burn them to a CD, and rip them back in MP3 format.

      Get your facts straight before spreading FUD.

      And thanks for the laugh.
  • WinMo already does play Zune music

    Windows Media Player on Windows Mobile already does support playing of Zune Pass DRM'd music. See:

    Windows Mobile also can stream HD video content just fine (via Flash even). It helps if you have 7Mbps 3G access like on T-Mobile.

    Making the Zune desktop detect Windows Phones is not a stretch at all. It doesn't really need to integrate with the Windows Mobile Device Center either as the current media sync program (WMP) doesn't need to do that... though it would probably be nice.

    When Microsoft brings Zune to Windows Phone, it will likely be in the same manner as it has been brought to the Zune HD.
  • In a bizarre twist of irony...

    the only ones that are going to be interested in this are the
    Microsoft fanboys...
    • Being a fan, nothing in yours or my pocket!!!

      I use MS software for everything and iTunes for my iPhone. Like them all, and this MS fanboys and Apple fanboys just makes me sick. Use what you like and stop disrespecting others.
    • yes, and NB they are using QUICKTIME for their Zune vids!

      Did you visit the link with the Zune videos?
      ALL QUICKTIME (Apple) - I just couldn't believe it.
      • As I've said here before...

        ...coporations are not as entrenched into a paticular tool as humans are. They are in this business for a living, not braggins rights.
  • RE: Dorado: One more key to the Microsoft mobile puzzle

    Never heard of it, probably won't use it or any other similar product. I have no Apple products in use, not many Microsoft, except for operating systems (XPMC). Occasionally something will come in a Quicktime format, which is an Apple product.
    No one in my family has an I-Phone, my daughter has a Zune player. Phones are at present standard Motorolas, no "smart" phones.
  • Replace Windows Media Player with Zune? Yikes...

    The Zune software is very nice, but... it's a total memory HOG. It's also missing some things (though they could be added, of course)--like the playback speed control, which I use all the time in Windows Media Player.

    Anyhow, if they replace WMP with a Zune player that incorportates the missing features, so be it--but please, also offer a (relatively) lightweight player for music and video. Waiting for the Zune software to fire up every time just to flip through a few video files or listen to an audio attachment... not good.
    • I also have no use for it

      In fact, I can't see why microsoft would bother. I dont use their media player, either, I use media player CLASSIC, which doesn't have all kind of crap on it like playlists, "visualizations" and whatever bloated garbage they've added to the latest one. The last one I had installed was WMP 6.4, very basic, did its job, and didn't try to be the world.
      Who cares about watching HDTV anyway, especially on some phone or whatever they're talking about. Makes no sense.
  • Does fit into this?

    I think some of the items above seem to be an evolutionary and natural progression of things to come. Syncing everything seems "One Appish" so I'm not too surprised about it.

    However, with that said..I feel like the talk about video possibly being MSs trump card might have some merit but a massive uphill battle.. Microsofts work in iptv has been steady but without alot to show (to consumers). We did see U-vers (sp?) at CES on the HD2, didn't we?

    Video (like music) is tough for MS because everyone loves Apple. I would imagine that most content plublishers prefer a single point of entry so they can somewhat control the distribution channels. If the rumors about Apples's new A4 chip are true, that it is a unhackable DRM paradise, that put's another nail in MS media coffins imho.

    Someone above mentioned Play4Sure... What if MS brings back those partners but instead of 2 paths, they coalesce around Zune?

    In the past several months, there was plenty of job postings wrt, but little in the form of rumor and speculation. Doesn't anyone think that this service and stuff like voice xml will be a big part of MS next convergence play?

    I'm leaning towards what Liveside is suggesting... that being Silverlight is the 'big bet' as well.

    What gets me, however, is that although what is mentioned in this article and in the comments here are pretty interesting... none of it seems worthy of the reactions we got from folks that went to Mobius 09.

    Ryan Block, Gartenberg, Tom Warren, Jason Dunn seemed to be REALLY excited about what they saw.

    Block and Gartenberg to me are major Apple fanbois, so I can't imagine them being excited about MS Zune stuff...

    Tome Warren and Jason Dunn came out forcefully to defend Windows Phone when the rumors were going around about it being delayed. If I recall, in the articles they posted... they also reiterated how amazing and gamechanging that whatever they saw at mobius was.

    Silverlight, Zune as service, XBL, OneApp, Tellme... are thise Amazing and Gamechanging?
    • Not everyone loves Apple....

      Please dont use 'Generalization' in your comments. I in fact dread Apple as an IT technician. The fact is their playback software is a nightmare for network loads. Getting the right version for the right OS is like pulling teeth with pliers. Crapple is not my friend and i do not love their products. iPhone, iPod, iXXX = bandwidth hogs and the major reason why wireless G networks are crawling. No other products on the market disrespects networks like Apple's. The have no respect from me or my tech staff either. Since 2 years ago, we had to triple our bandwidth capabilities because of these simpleton devices.

      Apple would do better to analyze the TRUE impact of their devices instead of the focus on profit and fame.
  • RE: Dorado: One more key to the Microsoft mobile puzzle

    Well I have a Zune and several iPods. I bought the HD and hated it. The browser is useless. And I do mean useless. I can't imagine anything worhtwhile on that platform to use on any other platform. When I got the Zune HD I was looking for something to replace my old Palm TX. The Apple iTouch fails. The Zune is beyond fail. So why on earth would you use it as a basis for a software platform for anything. Its like strapping a battery to a plunger and calling it a power plunger. Which it technicallly is because it does have power and it is a plunger.
  • @dtroyerSM: So poorly designed interfaces are a good thing?

    So you don't like clean easy to use interfaces that allow people to
    actually use the products?

    Better to hide the power in criptic and cofusing interfaces to limit
    • Interfaces?

      The whole focus was install-ability and impact to systems. iTunes has one the worst interfaces i have seen, both clogged with too many options and tough to figure at first glance (if you want to talk interfaces, but again, that's not the focus)
      You can't use is if the installation and hardware impacts are beyond average software usage.

      Obviously, you dont work in IT or are a technician. Having 30+ years in computing and used all products from Unix distributed to Apple and IBM clone systems, i can say that Apple still has no respect for bandwidth and impacts to hardware network infrastructure.

      Besides that, DEFINE: Clean Interfaces
      There is no such animal on the planet. Everyone wants clutter and icons or did you ignore that Apple/PC desktop?