For all you who still believe Microsoft is still consumed with the impossible task of beating the iPod with the Zune, here's more proof that Zune's future is all about software and services and not hardware.
Microsoft is considering whether it should port the Zune software and services to other platforms, including Apple's. There's no guarantee that the Redmondians will end up doing this -- or timetable as to when this could happen -- but it's one of many strategies under active consideration.
That's what I heard today from Jose Pinero, Director of Communications for Microsoft's TV, Video and Music Business. I had a chance to chat with Pinero at Microsoft's consumer open-house showcase in New York on October 6.
As I'm currently using the Zune Pass subscription in conjunction with my Sony Walkman MP3 player, I realized that the service isn't tied to the device. Sure, you don't get the Zune HD operating system and user interface, but it's still workable (with a little finagling).
I've been thinking that there might be a number of Apple iPod/iPhone users who might prefer a music subscription service over a pay-per-song one. (And one that's better than Rhapsody.) Given the problems many iTunes users have trying to run iTunes on Windows, maybe they'd be interested in using the Zune software on their Windows PCs, even if they are iPod/iPhone users.
"We are evaluating a lot of options in terms of platforms," Pinero confirmed, when I asked about this scenario.
He noted that with the addition of the ability to stream music from a browser that is part of the new Zune 4.0 experience, Mac and Linux users already can stream music to their systems if they have a ZunePass subscription. The streaming capability isn't limited to Internet Explorer; it works with any browser, he said.
So what would it mean to take the Zune experience to Apple users? simply make it easier for iPods/iTouch devices to connect to Zune Pass and to run the Zune software? I didn't get any more specifics from Pinero.
While most pundits and many enthusiasts continue to posit that Microsoft is still focused on trying to beat the ubiquitious iPod, that isn't what the Zune team is thinking.
"Zune is a music and video service from Microsoft. Period," said Pinero.
(As I've reported before, Microsoft officials have said they plan to deliver "at least one more" version of the Zune media player to market, but beyond that, aren't committing to continue making Microsoft-branded music/video devices. Their thinking is that users will prefer converged devices and want their music and video on phones and other portable devices instead of dedicated media players.)
I asked Pinero when Microsoft might be bringing the Zune music and video service to Windows Mobile phones.
"Our next step is mobile phones, but we haven't talked about a timeline for when that will happen," he said.
Pinero said Microsoft's more immediate priorities are to get Zune music and Video services on the Xbox. Microsoft officials said earlier this year that Microsoft plans to make the Zune video marketplace available as part of Xbox Live this fall.
Do you think Microsoft could and should port the Zune software and services to other platforms, especially those from Apple? Any brave and/or crazy Apple iPod/iTouch users out there who have found a way to use their devices with ZunePass?