Microsoft considering making Zune services available to Apple users

Microsoft considering making Zune services available to Apple users

Summary: 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.


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?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Mobility


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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  • Hell Yes!

    iTunes is the only thing that's making me want to ditch my iPhone. It's a bloated piece of garbage. At least on Windows. However, the Zune software runs beautifully. I already have the Zune Pass so win-win.
    • I agree..

      I install iTunes to update the iPhone firmware and then remove straight away. The Zune software is such a pleasure to use even if you don't own a Zune.
    • You can get iTunes replacements that are compatible with iPods (nt)

  • Yep!!!

    I sure hope they do port it to other platforms. the more popular it becomes the better for Microsoft. Zune platform is really really good. Zune software makes iTunes look archaic.

    Still hard to believe it's from Microsoft.
  • Really?

    Why? Do Microsoft actually expect the Zune to gain traction?
    Deluded!!! The iPod Touch has the application advantage, and
    really that's what counts. Given the fact that the Zune is a US
    only product and in 2009 has no "App Store", well it seems
    • Yes, really.

      Zune as software and a service can defiantly gain
      traction. Once the Marketplace hits XBOX Live it
      will soon be know worldwide very well and people
      will know what's up when they release the device
      internationally or the software on the computers
      and mobile devices.
    • zune hw vs. zune sw/services

      Hi. The Zune HD platform is not MS' long-term vision/vehicle (as I note above). There are no plans to make an app store available for the Zune HD player or (so far) to make Zune HD players available outside the U.S.

      This is because the future of Zune is software + services. MS is getting out of the player business some time in the next few years. Pundits and some enthusiasts don't want to hear this, but this is what they are doing. They expect the Zune software and services (video and music) -- not the hardware -- to gain traction. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • You're simply making this up as you go ...

        I bet Mary Jo can't provide a single link to any article where MS states
        they are getting out of the Zune hardware business (aside from her
        own previous articles). Ballmer's comments in January were specifically
        targeted at the prospects of a Zune Phone, not the Zune media player
        form factor.

        The official Zune site expresses strong commitment to the Zune
        hardware platform:

        It is simply pathetic that 'journalists' like Mary Jo make this stuff up as
        they go along, or base entire articles on six-month old comments that
        they have completely misinterpretted.

        • Microsoft probably admits this to MJF

          but doesn't want a lot of press about it. She
          knows more than they are publicly trumpeting.
        • MS says it in this post again

          Pinero says that Zune is a software and service play only.

          I like the Zune HD. In fact, I just ordered one. I think it is really nice. But MS believes that the days of dedicated music/video players is numbered. That's why they are going to put Zune on Win Mobile (and maybe other) phones.

          I am the bearer of what you consider bad news. But I am definitely not making this up. MS is saying it but enthusiasts don't want to hear it. Thanks. MJ
          Mary Jo Foley
          • Of course he doesn't want to hear it

            He bought a doomed product and nobody wants to buy a doomed product.

            Just look at all the whining that occurred among HD-DVD owners there a couple of years ago. Denial - rage - anger and eventually acceptance...

            Btw, *accepting* something doesn't mean you have to like it.
            Wintel BSOD
        • Dude, the interviewee said they have no plans...

          Its still a test market... it's how Microsoft has
          always worked. If the Zune takes off, of course
          they will continue manufacturing it. If it doesn't
          they aren't going to stay in a business that isn't
          making much money. duh!

          Petty name calling isn't becoming.
      • Zune's going "bye bye" ????

        Fun times. Have you got this confirmed from, say Ballmer or someone else important at Microsoft?
    • Apps...

      Why is it these little battery drainers are so popular?

      I bought a Zune [i]because[/i] it is nothing more than a PMP, yes, I use the browser sporadically, but as for apps go, why do we need them on a iPod?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Gaming (nt)

  • Yes! This is so needed.

    I know quite a few people who would like to get a Zune
    HD but can't because they have a Mac (Bootcamp is not
    an acceptable alternative to the average consumer).
    If they port it they would defiantly get some users.
    Like Foley said, you can already stream through the
    browser. I doubt they will actually be able to sync
    Zune software with the iPod Touch or iPhone since
    they only sync with iTunes, but they could do an app
    like Rhapsody and stream music or Spotify (Right?)
    where you can download through the app. I think they
    should most certainly do this. I'm not a Mac user at
    all but I still think it's a good idea.
  • A Win for Microsoft.

    Considering that most Mac users are the type of people who have money to spend on gadgets, Microsoft would have a good time taping into the resources. My friend, who have a Mac, a PC, an iPod Touch, and an iPhone at first considered buying a Zune HD, but after learning that the Zune is not cross platform, decided not to buy it.
    • Mac users have money to spend on well designed gadgets

      but is this software service such a thing? I'm
      definitely not in to music subscriptions, and
      satisfied with what iTunes offers. I suspect the
      market for those who want Apple hardware but Zune
      software will be very small, but what to I know.
  • RE: Microsoft considering making Zune services available to Apple users

    I'm sure that if Microsoft ports the Zune software to Apple, there will be Apple users that will actually drop the Ipod/Iphone for the Zune HD as their main PMP, as well as those Apple users that have an XBox that wants the same connectivity and synergy as their Windows 7 counterparts.

    This could be a huge win, and can even cut into the AppleTV market.
  • It is the only model Microsoft really understands

    When Apple started exploiting Windows to push
    iTunes it was good for Apple.

    When Microsoft brings Zune to the iPod/iPhone
    platform it will be good for Microsoft. There is no
    reason that a Zune app couldn't be written and sold.