Microsoft and Zune: the next few years

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You guys always get riled up when we mention the Zune, so of course we’re doing it again. What did you think was going to happen? After Apple’s disappointing event on Tuesday, I feel pretty right focusing on other players, and because of the Zune update it’s taking up what little limelight there is left. To be fair, Apple already made its big future-thinking move with the iPhone ages ago, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care when other companies make progress too. Read on.

This interview with the head of Zune dev is optimistic (and slightly opportunistic) when it could instead be “poor us, our sales are super weak.” They think they have a competitive product and they really do. It’s just a David and Goliath thing — although it’s difficult to say who the Goliath is in this metaphor. Having Microsoft backing you is a bit like having God Mode on, but it’s a little less like cheating here in the real world. It means they can take risks and check stuff out without risking their entire enterprise.

He hints at, but doesn’t exactly promise, integration with cell phones, 360s, media centers, and all of those things; he suggests Microsoft is trying to build a comprehensive entertainment package with video, audio, gaming and anything else in there with a unifying community a la Xbox Live. People do want to be connected, he says, just look at the sea change in gaming over the last few years. They’re trying to do that to music, but the way I see it, they’re still hopelessly fractured. Xbox Live, Windows Live services, and the Zune Social are all connected by strings when it should be one gargantuan entity. That is, of course, extremely difficult to do, but it’s a worthy task and one more suited to Microsoft than any else.

The Zune attracts a lot of ire and mockery, but I think that’s because it’s dogging Apple pretty good in the plain ol’ mp3 arena. Microsoft can’t touch the Touch right now (especially after the price drop), but who’s to say what they have up their sleeve? What with Windows 7 being touchable and all the research that’s gone into the Surface interface, it may be Apple getting leapfrogged by Microsoft next time instead of the other way around (which is pretty much the way it’s been for years). At any rate, competition is making for some interesting and versatile devices and it’s a good time to be a gadget blogger.

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