Comments by Microsoft execs last week during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) made murky Microsoft's future plans for the Zune. And follow-up over the weekend on the Zune Insider blog didn't clarify matters any.
Users want to know whether Microsoft plans to stay in the Zune hardware business. Will Microsoft make any more Zune players? Will the company issue future Zune firmware updates? How long will Microsoft support existing players if it exits that business? No one will go on the record and provide clarification.
Instead, Microsoft officials are saying things like this:
"We've been saying for some time that our strategy for Zune is to provide a great entertainment experience across multiple screens and devices. Software and services have always been at the core of this strategy - this is nothing new. Today, this means a great Zune experience on the PC and portable Zune devices, and as we have said before we think it makes sense to extend that experience to other devices in the future," blogged Paul Davidson, Lead Video Producer, Zune Video Marketplace.
It's already known that Microsoft is planning to move Zune services to mobile phones. That's what the Zune Mobile announcement that many were expecting at CES but now is unlikely before next month.
Poster Christopher Coulter expressed many users' frustration with Microsoft's failure to be clear about Zune's future:
"How to keep conspiracy theories alive and drench all marketing fires, answer things in a haze cloud of PR nothingness. Don't ever directly state anything, use codewords such as 'extend' and 'today" followed by a "future'.
"Just one clear answer that you aren't going to abandonware an entire hardware platform. Not so hard to do. Right?"
Would you care if Microsoft abandons the Zune hardware market -- if it continues to provide Zune subscription and sharing services on other devices?
Update: On January 13, a Microsoft Zune spokesman claimed Microsoft "is not getting out of the hardware business at all." Too bad it took Microsoft almost a week to comment on Ballmer's and Microsoft's President of Entertainment and Devices' Robbie Bach's less-than-straightforward comments about Zune's future.