Is there room for a Zune in a post-Windows Phone 7 world?

Microsoft logoRemember when Microsoft unveiled the successor to Windows Mobile and said that every Windows Phone 7 will be a Zune? The consequences of that decision for Zune as a platform and for future devices are starting to pile up as we draw closer to release.

Microsoft is considering at least one Zune HD, and is currently working on version 2, according to ZDNet (an echo of a six-month old SlashGear rumor). The name of Microsoft's iPod touch competitor is unknown: it might be Zune HD 2, Zune HD2, or even Zune HD7 (if HTC is okay with it).

There are still no details on dimensions, price, possible cameras, or any other specifications; an ARM processor is a given, but everything else is up in the air. A launch this holiday season seems unlikely, as it could distract from the Windows Phone 7 marketing campaign, so a 2011 release makes more sense. This supposed Zune HD successor would, according to the rumor, take a few pointers from the Windows Phone 7 GUI, which is plausible given how heavily Windows Phone 7 borrowed from the Zune.

The main argument against Microsoft not releasing a successor is simple: Zune HD sales weren't very good (largely due to the lack of an international release). Then again, the same was true of the Zune 30, and its poor performance didn't cause the company to abandon the music player market.

Inside the Circle notes that a firmware update is likely for existing Zune HDs, but even if that's coming, and we think it is, it doesn't rule out a second Zune HD.

Windows Phone 7 and Zune are tied together by much more than a GUI; remember that Microsoft is trying to turn Zune into a platform. In fact, the Zune desktop software will be used to install major updates on Windows phones (minor updates will be delivered over-the-air).

Furthermore, since the Zune service is powering the music and video portion of the phone experience, we can expect it to appear in all the countries that these devices launch in. While the rumored price cuts reported by Bloomberg remain unlikely, purported UK pricing for the Zune Pass has already leaked over at WMPoweruser: £8.99 plus tax per month of access to Microsoft's music database, and just like in the US, users get to keep 10 free tracks a month. The particular phrasing suggests the service isn't ready to roll out in the UK just yet—the "plus tax" phrasing is an Americanism not used in the UK, where prices are quoted inclusive of VAT.

To support Windows Phone 7, a new version of the Zune software will shortly be released, as confirmed by Matt Akers, cohost of Zune Insider. To tie in to the Windows Phone 7 name, it will leap to version 4.7. The Zune software will be used to sync Windows Phone 7 with music, pictures, videos, and apps on a PC. We're betting that version 4.7 will finally reveal whether the Zune HD is the last Microsoft portable media player.

For more confirmation that Microsoft is pushing Zune as a platform, and not just a bunch of devices with the same brand, recall that three months ago United Airlines began offering free inflight music (up to 21 separate playlists) on all its aircraft, courtesy of Zune. On a recent Zune Insider episode (via Neowin), Microsoft confirmed that it would be providing United with 500 Zune HDs preloaded with media and movies not yet released on DVD for passengers on long-haul flights to Hong Kong and Australia. That won't help sell Zunes, but it definitely helps the brand as a whole.

Source: ars technica

Tags: digital players, Microsoft, Zune

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