Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

Summary: Over the past few days, more and more Microsoft watchers are noticing that Microsoft execs seem to be making a deliberate effort to avoid using the Z (Zune) word. That avoidance has set off a wave of speculation.

SHARE:

Over the past few days, more and more Microsoft watchers are noticing that Microsoft execs seem to be making a deliberate effort to avoid using the Z (Zune) word. That avoidance has set off a wave of speculation.

Some pundits claiming that Microsoft is moving to rebrand the service (Windows Live Entertainment, anyone?). Others believe Microsoft is clearing the decks to allow Microsoft's latest and biggest Windows Phone partner Nokia to take over the streaming-music part of the service. (I'm not putting a lot of stock in that one, since Nokia recently closed the Ovi Music Streaming service.)

As a Zune HD and ZunePass user -- and one who is looking forward to syncing her Zune account to her Windows Phone (whenever Verizon finally delivers a WP7 model) -- I was worried Microsoft might have decided to pull the plug on its Zune music/movie/TV service. With the ill-fated Kin, Microsoft has shown that not all its bets, even those that come to market, are long-term ones. I asked the Softies whether Zune was about to be Kinned.

A spokesperson responded to my question late in the day of February 14:

"We’re not 'killing' any of the Zune services/features in any way. Microsoft remains committed to providing a great music and video experience from Zune on platforms such as Xbox LIVE, Windows-based PCs, Zune devices and Windows Phone 7, as well as integration with Bing and MSN.”

Windows Supersite blogger Paul Thurrott's rebranding theory is sounding more and more plausible. But I'm thinking that Microsoft may opt to rebrand Zune as "Xbox entertainment," rather than anything to do with Windows Live. After all, the Zune service already is available on the Xbox. And the rumored Zune HD2 -- supposedly a device meant to compete with the iPod Touch -- easily could be positioned and marketed as a portable gaming device.

Some veteran Microsoft heavy-hitters are moving to the Xbox division, as I've blogged recently, and are seemingly working on some kind of services-focused project. And the Zune team -- which Microsoft split and reorged (twice) -- is already in the Interactive Entertainment Business division, which is the home of the Xbox. Maybe the Zune service will end up as part of the evolving Microsoft IPTV strategy?

Anyone have any guesses (educated or not) about what's next for Zune?

Update: Of all the posts I've read since I wrote this blog entry, I think Jamie Thomson's makes the most sense. Thomson suggests that Zune will become the new Windows Live Media Player, and, effectively, Microsoft's competitor to iTunes. I -- unlike Thomson -- still am thinking there could be one more Zune iPod Touch competitor, but more likely positioned as an Xbox-branded portable gaming device

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software

About

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.

Talkback

113 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • All Microsoft's mobile devices eventually get Kinned

    Remember PlaysForSure? It came before Zune, and was supposed to compete with the iPod. It failed, and was Kinned.

    The replacement for PlaysForSure was Zune. Now it gets Kinned too.

    Next, Windows Phone 7 will get Kinned, due to its lackluster sales.
    Vbitrate
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac <br><br>No one said anything of the kind. It wouldn't be in their best interest to do so.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac I love it! "Kinned" Kinned: n. adv. to kill off an inept attempt by Microsoft to imitate an Apple product.
      dheady
      • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

        @dheady@... Yep...file that one with <br>Vista'd: n. asj. Making an ineffective or unstable product then re-branding and selling it as a new product instead of patching it. <br>Or... <br>ME'd: n. adj. Making a product so horrendously unstable and ineffective that the manufacturer has to refuse to acknowledge it ever existed.<br>Or...<br>XBOX'd: n. adj. Attempting to close and make proprietary a system built on cross compatibility by changing markets and then connecting it into everything other product you make. (we are talking about nothing more than Windows on a console after all)
        Socratesfoot
      • Message has been deleted.

        statuskwo5
      • Just like when Apple &quot;Newton's&quot; a product

        @dheady@...
        Yeah, there's MS, copying Apple again.
        AllKnowingAllSeeing
      • Laughable

        "Vista'd: n. asj. Making an ineffective or unstable product then re-branding and selling it as a new product instead of patching it."

        Vista has been usable for the past year, where have you been?

        "XBOX'd: n. adj. Attempting to close and make proprietary a system built on cross compatibility by changing markets and then connecting it into everything other product you make. (we are talking about nothing more than Windows on a console after all)"

        Look! It's iOS and iTunes! No, wait, Microsoft hasn't made rules to make sure certain things cannot be used with it. My mistake.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Seriously... Here come the 'Tards...

        @dheady@...
        Except that would be quite incorrect. Name the Apple product the Kin phones were trying to emulate. That's right - there isn't one. The Kin phones were designed around social networking - Facebook, Twitter, etc.. They came with rediculous data plans that were overpriced. The Kin had no apps, nor any facility to add new ones in the future. It was supposed to be a replacement for the Sidekick phones previously offered by Danger (now owned by Microsoft) and sold through T-Mobile. It was a one trick pony. In this day and age, with the iPhone and Android, and for that matter, even Windows Mobile 6.5 devices, the Kin series was pretty much a non-starter.

        @Socratesfoot -
        Try again. Vista is (and was) very stable. Windows 7 is likewise just as stable. Vista has been patched - it's now up to Service Pack 2. Windows 7 SP1 is right around the corner. It's getting patched as well. Windows 7, btw, is NOT Vista. It's based on Vista - just like it's based on XP, Win 2K, NT 4 and NT 3.x.

        Windows ME - funny thing about how "unstable" you claim it to be. I had a Win Me box - and it ran fairly well given I had it running on a Pentium 300 MHz dog back in the day. I've had friends and colleagues who ran it for YEARS - without any issues - until the hardware itself crapped out or the software they needed to run required XP. If it was nearly as bad as popular myth claims it to be - then how exactly can that be?

        And how is the XBox any different from any other console - PS3, Ninitendo Wii or any of the other previous consoles on the market? Seems to me that the PS3 also offers stuff like Netflix and other web services (YouTube, et al.).

        If the Xbox was "nothing more than Windows on a console" then how is it Xbox games are NOT compatible with Windows? Likewise, Games for Windows can't be played on an Xbox either. Game makers need to code different versions for each platform. And if they want to be competetive - they generally make a 3rd one as well - for the PS3.

        So both of you - do us all a favor and pull your head out.
        Wolfie2K3
      • Actually...

        @dheady@...

        Kinned: n. adv. to kill off or rebrand an immature or unsuccessful product or service to avoid embarrassment due to poor sales after good reviews. <i>See BeBox, Windows Vista, Windows Phone 7</i>
        cosuna
      • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

        @goff256:

        <i>Vista has been usable for the past year, where have you been?</i>

        I have heard that ever since 2008. People said that for Vista SP1, SP2 and SP3. I've used it ever since the Betas, RCs and RTMs. It never has worked, and the few people who actually "survive" it are really too stubborn to acknowledge that it s**ks.

        Alas, most say Windows 7 is a Service Pack and actually it's a series of back ports from manage C++/C# code to straight C++ COM. That's the reason for the added speed and the decreased memory usage. Full touch users (aka HP TouchSmart) still need 6Gb memory and i7 processors.
        cosuna
      • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

        [i]I have heard that ever since 2008. People said that for Vista SP1, SP2 and SP3. I've used it ever since the Betas, RCs and RTMs.[/i]

        I used it for about 5 months. Blew it off my machine and restored XP from an old Ghost image. For a couple of years afterwards, I recommended people downgrade to XP or switch to Linux, if they could get away with it. Saved them a whole lot of headaches.

        [i]It never has worked, and the few people who actually "survive" it are really too stubborn to acknowledge that it s**ks.[/i]

        For the Redmond Borg Collective to admit that, it would put their whole existence into question. It would just kill them to say, [i]"yes, we made a mistake. We were wrong".[/i] Pride & ego rule the day.

        I remember the when Geniuses over at Apple were wearing "We're not Vista" T-shirts for a long time afterwards. Vista was the best thing to happen to Apple and they exploited it to the max. :)

        [i]Alas, most say Windows 7 is a Service Pack and actually it's a series of back ports from manage C++/C# code to straight C++ COM. That's the reason for the added speed and the decreased memory usage.[/i]

        Win7 was the OS they [b]should have[/b] released in 2007 and as you can see, they haven't learned from that.
        LTV10
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac

      I once knew a guy, who had a bother, who knew a guy who owned a Zune... he said it was great.
      Kabcock
      • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

        @Kabcock
        Although you are being tongue-in-cheek, you're probably not far off the mark. Zune players, to the best of my knowledge, were only released in the USA.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac

      ....what? PlaysForSure was a DRM technology, and has almost nothing to do with Zune....

      Maybe you should be Kinned as well....
      spacespeed
      • PlaysForSure was supposed to compete with iPod

        @spacespeed - PlaysForSure was a Microsoft platform for music players, which it licensed to OEMs.

        It included an online music library, a bit like iTunes. Yes, it got Kinned to make way for the Zune, which is now also getting Kinned.
        Vbitrate
      • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

        @zndac - You are wrong. PlaysForSure was DRM technology, not a platform.
        NPGMBR
    • Killing the Zune would be an admission of failure

      @zndac ... If there's one thing Microsoft must never do, it's admit that anything the company has ever done has been a failure. Keep it alive forever and ever and ever. What the hell, it's only shareholders money.
      HollywoodDog
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac

      What this person said.
      james347
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac

      As one of the millions with a Windows Phone, soon to be joined by a planet full of Nokia users, Zune is just the synchronisaiton for my phone. I vaguely remember when I thought music was important, but I have no need for music services. I'm fine with a new name ;-)
      tonymcs1
    • RE: Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?

      @zndac I had a Windows 7 phone from Samsung - dumped it and went back to the iPhone, much better - nice try Microsoft but best stay in the software business.
      rob70949