News reports on Monday suggest that Microsoft is killing its hardware line of Zune music players, but what about the software?
Bloomberg’s Dina Bass claims that a source has confirmed that Microsoft has killed its Zune music players. The news is hardly surprising and has been a long time coming for Microsoft. WinRumors recently reported that Microsoft is planning to merge some Zune services into the Windows Live brand but it appears the changes go deeper than that. Microsoft was originally quick to respond and state that the company isn’t “killing any of the Zune services/features in any way.”
Zune hardware may not be going away altogether though. WinRumors understands that the software giant has been mulling licensing the Zune software, with its Metro UI, to third parties under an official OEM agreement. The agreement would allow third parties to manufacturer devices running Microsoft’s Zune software, whether device manufacturers plan to create hardware is another story.
WinRumors asked Microsoft about the latest reports of Zune devices being killed and a company spokesperson sent the following statement:
“We have nothing to announce about another Zune device – but most recently have introduced Zune HD to Canada via Zune Originals store and remain committed to supporting our devices in North America. We are thrilled by the consumer excitement for Zune across many new platforms, including Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360. Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms.”
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 in February. 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.