Microsoft’s ‘Zune dead’ denial means nothing, it’s getting rebranded

By Tom Warren, on 16th Feb 11 2:40 pm with 13 Comments

Microsoft Zune

Microsoft will rebrand Zune into Windows Live services despite the company’s denials that it’s “killing Zune.”

Yesterday, WinRumors reported that Microsoft is planning to merge some Zune services into the Windows Live brand. Microsoft quickly issued a statement denying that the company is “killing Zune”:

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.

Microsoft’s Zune dead denial misses the point. Both WinRumors and Paul Thurrott reported that the company will transition the services over to Windows Live but Microsoft chose to point out that it’s not “killing” any of Zunes services or features rather than clarify what it is really up to. Microsoft’s denial is more revealing that if it had simply pushed our the normal “we don’t comment on rumor or speculation” line that the company is used to saying. Read between the lines.

The news that Zune services will move into Windows Live backs up the reason Microsoft recently reorganized the Zune team structure. Microsoft split the hardware and software Zune teams into separate units. Microsoft’s reorg ultimately points to the demise of the Zune brand over time. Separately, WinRumors has learned that Microsoft is planning to make use of Nokia’s Ovi services and blend these into Windows Live. Andy Lees, President of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, spoke at a financial analyst briefing during Mobile World Congress on Monday. Lees explained the Nokia deal. “It includes search revenue transfer, advertising revenue transfer, location-based services revenue transfer, royalty payments for software, and it includes joint marketing” said Lees.

Microsoft has been suspiciously quiet around Zune and Zune services over the past few months. The software giant’s Zune Video service gained over 50% more market share in 2010 compared to 2009, thanks to an international launch of the Zune Marketplace. Microsoft made Zune Video available in October to additional regions including Europe, Asia and Australia. Despite the expansion, Microsoft’s Zune services aren’t widely known outside of the United States. Microsoft’s marketing teams have spent little time and money on promoting Zune and the focus appears to be solely on Windows Phone. Whatever is planned for Zune, we should know more at MIX11 in April. Joe Belfiore, who is responsible for any forthcoming generations of Zune devices, is keynoting at the event.

  • Thom McKiernan

    Surely everything Zune is on hold now that they have the Noika Ovi suite to merge in as well?

    • Anonymous

      Hardly.. zune is still keeping up with release tuesdays, pushing out new content and updating the app store. If anything, Ovi will get a zune marketplace and ms will pushing a zune app for symbian phones increasing their marketshare a zillionfold

  • Ahmed Salem

    Seriously, why we still have media players (iPod and Zune) nowadays??!

    • Chris Lindhartsen

      Not everyone can afford, or wants, a smart phone, and a media player serves a purpose for those people.

  • Anonymous

    Paul Thurrott sensationalized the headline and turned what could be a good thing into web traffic and ms hatorade. i mean “About Zune. Yes, Microsoft is killing it” as a headline is just asking for people to be confused/disappointed

  • Manish

    Marriage between Zune and Ovi music store will be great. In some markets, Nokia is provided unlimited songs download from its OVI store.

  • Anonymous

    This just got tweeted early this am: “ZUNE Don’t believe the rumors! RT @reese305: nooooooo I love my @zune more than anything!!!! RT @CNETNews Report: Microsoft to nix Zune branding”

  • JJ Murphy

    When I read the statement from the Zune team, they never said they weren’t killing the name, just that the services will continue to be provided. Seems a lot like the Zune branding is dead, but expect everything that they do to be rebranded so that consumers don’t remember what the hell is going on….

  • GP007

    So, if true, what are they going to call it now? Windows Live Marketplace? Really? I don’t get the thinking behind this sorta move. Now that Zune is actually gaining in marketshare you’ll rebrand it and start over? This makes no business sense at all. What, just because Apple puts “i” infront of everything MS decided we’ll just slap Windows infront of everything as well? There’s no need to change the branding at all, least of if it’s into something stupid like Windows Live whatever.


    Calling Windows Phone “windows” works out because it’s a whole OS, not just a service. Also spliting up the Zune software and hardware teams doesn’t mean anything, so what? The Zune hardware team can work on WP7 hardware along with MS’s partners. MS makes lots of reference designs that it uses as a base for OEMs to work off of even if they’re not selling a PMP directly anymore.

    I won’t believe this till I see the official name change.

  • Anonymous

    Well, a big part of any brand is the name. The services may still be available, but the brand name and all the advertisement bucks that went into that brand name is lost.

    This and other rebranding, renaming, and flat-out dropping (i.e., KIN) goes to show that the decision makers in Microsoft don’t have a very clear direction for the future and make knee-jerk reactions.

  • Steve

    @byronm Exactly. “Mary Paul Jo Bott Thurrott” should stick to whining about disk extender… not sure what his issue is these days.. but he needs to get over it…

    The irony is this blog basically agrees with him.. then posts “MS releases Zune HD support for Mac OS” .. so which is it? its dead… or not ? Just say’n

    Oh.. and nobody really cares what its particularly called … so.. enough with the play on words (branding)…

    • Anonymous

      I just completed a zune market research survey and there was absolutely not a single question about potential brand awareness issues or rebranding concepts. It was all about streamlining the interface, adding missing content/tracks, adding pre-orders or expanding the marketplace to more phones/pdas/mp3 players. seems odd they would be doing this type of exhaustive research if its dead or being rebranded.

      “Windows music” sounds dumb. “live music” sounds one sided (i thought it was only live music!). Perhaps will be copublished within the live brand so you can manage your zune devices/software/services just as you do your phone

  • Anonymous

    FYI, i just got a market research survey for zune and absolutely NONE of the questions were brand related, it was all about short comings of the software, lack of titles/new releases, missing tracks for zune pass subscribers and the loss of points if not spent monthly. It would seem if there was brand confusion at least one of the dozens and dozens of questions would have hinted at that. it seems if anything microsoft wants to improve the zunepass experience and software to be more personal from the landing screen to more rich in its content.