Nokia / Microsoft: Where’s Zune?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted February 12, 2011 40 comments

In their press materials for the big announcement on Friday, Nokia and Microsoft featured a number of their brands in a collage of goodness about the partnership:

globalReach_web

However one brand is conspicuously missing from the equation: Zune.  It doesn’t appear anywhere on the slide, nor anywhere else in the Nokia/Microsoft announcements.  Paul Thurrott, in his Window Supersite post analyzing the announcements, noted that neither Nokia CEO Stephen Elop or Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned Zune.  Thurrott quotes Elop and gives his opinion:

Microsoft, meanwhile, has a “great software platform” in Windows Phone, and the brands that mobile consumers want, “like Bing, Xbox LIVE, and Office.” (Side-note: Zune was conspicuously absent from this list. It is my opinion and guess that Microsoft is currently phasing out the Zune brand and will simply roll the various Zune services into Windows Live.)

And again, when Steve Ballmer took the stage Friday morning, he didn’t mention Zune either, as noted by Thurrott:

He said that Windows Phone was not just a single product but was instead the combination of many products from across Microsoft, “not only Windows, but Office, Bing, Hotmail, and Xbox.” (Note, again, how Zune was conspicuously left out of this equation.)

While this can’t be the greatest news for Zune or Zune fans, we think there are some explanations that fall somewhere south of “ZOMG, Zune is Dead!!”. 

First, Nokia has its own music store:

nokia-music

Part of the “Ovi” feature suite, Ovi music offers downloads (and more importantly, licensing deals with music companies) for 23 countries around the world.  It may bother users that Zune doesn’t offer the same services (Zune Pass, mp3 downloads free to keep, etc.) to other countries that it does in the US, but the fact is that these decisions are based largely on unique and often complex deals with music companies on a country by country basis.

We expect that a big reason why Zune wasn’t mentioned has to do with separate (or incomplete) plans to run music services on Nokia devices.

Next, Zune probably is ripe for a rebranding.  We’re not sure it belongs with Windows Live, as Thurrott suggests (for one thing, Windows Live falls under the Windows organization, a separate division than Windows Phone and Zune, which are in Entertainment & Devices), but a “Windows Phone” branded music player might give a bit of extra marketing push to Windows Phone, which as we all know needs all the help it can get.

We can’t imagine that another Zune device will be released any time soon.  Anything that would take sales away from Windows Phone doesn’t make sense, not right now, anyway.   Yes, Mix 2011 is promoting their keynote speaker with a somewhat cryptic reference:

For the second year in a row, Joe Belfiore, who oversees Windows Phone Program Management, and is responsible for the design and software product definition of forthcoming generations of Windows phones and Zune devices will keynote MIX again.

(emphasis added)

… and if Windows Phone was selling like hotcakes, a secondary (without a phone contract) new device might fly, but right now it needs to be “all in for Windows Phone”, with no distractions.

Will we see the Zune brand dissipate, or is this just a Nokia/Microsoft thing?  We think Microsoft has a winner with the functionality of the Zune software, with Zune Pass, and with the Metro design elements that make Zune products stand out, but we’re not sure that Microsoft needs, or wants, another brand to manage.  Music is and should be an integral part of the Windows Phone and Xbox experience, but does Microsoft need “Zune”?

Posted February 12th, 2011 at 9:32 pm
Category: Mobile
Tags: Nokia, Windows Phone, Zune
  • PmbAustin

    Yes, Microsoft needs Zune. It is it’s (only) answer to iTunes.

    And contrary to what is stated in the article, I think coming out with a new Zune device that was “Windows phone without the phone” would only HELP Windows Phone, in that it would give the Windows Phone Marketplace that many more customers… and younger people who get the Zune device would eventually “graduate” to a real Windows Phone.

    If Microsoft is bailing on Zune, it’s a huge mistake for them I think. There’s so much potential there. And Zune Video Marketplace is gaining market share at the expense of iTunes. Microsoft needs to go all in with not just Windows Phone, but with Zune.

    • Matthewbroderick

      zune 7 would be a cool name

  • PmbAustin

    Yes, Microsoft needs Zune. It is it’s (only) answer to iTunes.

    And contrary to what is stated in the article, I think coming out with a new Zune device that was “Windows phone without the phone” would only HELP Windows Phone, in that it would give the Windows Phone Marketplace that many more customers… and younger people who get the Zune device would eventually “graduate” to a real Windows Phone.

    If Microsoft is bailing on Zune, it’s a huge mistake for them I think. There’s so much potential there. And Zune Video Marketplace is gaining market share at the expense of iTunes. Microsoft needs to go all in with not just Windows Phone, but with Zune.

    • Matthewbroderick

      zune 7 would be a cool name

  • majg

    Bailing on “Zune” brand is a huge mistake and will create confusion. Zune has seen pretty decent growth in digital media (while Apple lost some… not tons,but definitely allows for an alternative) and has some momentum. Why they won’t advertise is beyond me, but it could be a clear winner if they’d actually put some effort into it. Plus, “Zune” as a brand is cool.

    I think the OVi thing is more plausible, but yeah, wouldn’t MS want to combine resources there?

  • majg

    Bailing on “Zune” brand is a huge mistake and will create confusion. Zune has seen pretty decent growth in digital media (while Apple lost some… not tons,but definitely allows for an alternative) and has some momentum. Why they won’t advertise is beyond me, but it could be a clear winner if they’d actually put some effort into it. Plus, “Zune” as a brand is cool.

    I think the OVi thing is more plausible, but yeah, wouldn’t MS want to combine resources there?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNIUT3CZMMKEL4YT6YQDTDZZKQ noni

    ahhh i own a zune player. and it is a very basic player. not much it can do, although by a new device they might mean another touchscreen zune but its so locked its very hard to crack it to customize it to our own preferences. oh i also own an N8. one thing to note. ever since i got my N8( a month and a half ago) i have not picked up my zune. this is the truth. i sometimes just use it as a paper holder lol and its 120gb. and unless the WP7 can play multiple formats like symbian can i see no reason to switch to a WP7 phone.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNIUT3CZMMKEL4YT6YQDTDZZKQ noni

    ahhh i own a zune player. and it is a very basic player. not much it can do, although by a new device they might mean another touchscreen zune but its so locked its very hard to crack it to customize it to our own preferences. oh i also own an N8. one thing to note. ever since i got my N8( a month and a half ago) i have not picked up my zune. this is the truth. i sometimes just use it as a paper holder lol and its 120gb. and unless the WP7 can play multiple formats like symbian can i see no reason to switch to a WP7 phone.

  • http://twitter.com/StefEBear Stefan R. G.

    seeing as Zune is pretty much a USA only product, is it any wonder it wasn’t mentioned with regards to Nokia..
    Zune is not available to most of Europe, Asia, Australia, etc etc..
    I don’t blame them.
    What needs to happen (and soon) is for the Zune Services to spread global (like iTunes has)..
    THEN it can then become a note point for phones that are mostly sold in Europe/Asia.

  • Stefan

    seeing as Zune is pretty much a USA only product, is it any wonder it wasn’t mentioned with regards to Nokia..
    Zune is not available to most of Europe, Asia, Australia, etc etc..
    I don’t blame them.
    What needs to happen (and soon) is for the Zune Services to spread global (like iTunes has)..
    THEN it can then become a note point for phones that are mostly sold in Europe/Asia.

  • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com Geoff COupe

    The Zune Marketplace is horribly fragmented across the globe, and not even available in most countries. And once you’ve set your country of residence in your Zune account, it’s set in stone. You can’t change it, or even delete your account and start afresh. The back-end infrastructure of the Zune Marketplace is hampering Microsoft’s push into global markets with WP7. It’s totally understandable that they might consider riding on the back of Nokia’s global marketplace infrastructure outside of the US.

  • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

    The Zune Marketplace is horribly fragmented across the globe, and not even available in most countries. And once you’ve set your country of residence in your Zune account, it’s set in stone. You can’t change it, or even delete your account and start afresh. The back-end infrastructure of the Zune Marketplace is hampering Microsoft’s push into global markets with WP7. It’s totally understandable that they might consider riding on the back of Nokia’s global marketplace infrastructure outside of the US.

  • http://jeftek.com Jef

    Zune needs to decouple itself from the hardware requirement of zuneHD or windows phone. The number of users are still to small to generate the volume of sales it needs to survive in the long run. I loved my zune…until I picked up an Android smartphone. I would love to have zune pass content on my phone, but its easier to just get a new music provider than to switch smartphone ecosystems. Zunepass is too expensive compared to be tied to a single set of devices. Create more value by allowing the zunepass content (yes mp3s play all over) on other devices. people who are buying a wp7 phone with its dataplan costs are most likely not going to also pay 15$ a month for zunepass. The ipod ecosystem doesn’t have a monthly fee, which to cost concious families may be seen as a cost savings.

    • Anonymous

      “The ipod ecosystem doesn’t have a monthly fee, which to cost concious families may be seen as a cost savings.” – Zune Pass is not required. It’s optional. iTunes doesn’t have such a monthly ‘fee’ because it’s not even a choice. So Zune Pass does not and should not deter people from getting a Zune or WP7 phone.

      The fact that Zune is exclusive to the Microsoft ecosystem, is meant to be a draw to encourage people to buy more products in that ecosystem. More money made from getting people to adopt the ecosystem, than that paid through Zune Pass fees. Plus it’d be hard for Microsoft to manage Zune Pass accounts on devices outside the Microsoft ecosystem, thus record companies not willing to allow their music on Zune Pass anymore.

      • http://jeftek.com Jef

        The world has moved on from “the device is my service” mentality though. Look at Netflix, amazon, even hulu. They are more and more device agnostic, so their reach toward customers is larger. Mobile Xbox live games on WP7 is great, but its ONLY on wp7 so once again its reach and adoption is limited. While I am not a playstation fan, what they are doing with their playstation suite, bringing it to multiple hardware platforms will make it more attractive to the consumer. Developers and media companies want to make money by having the largest possible consumer audience who can purchase their wares.

        I have been a big fan of Zune since before it came out (check http://jeftek.com/tag/zune/ ), and still think its the best music service that hardly anyone uses in comparison to others. The environment has changed, and if Zune is to survive it needs to be set free from device lock in.

  • http://jeftek.com Jef

    Zune needs to decouple itself from the hardware requirement of zuneHD or windows phone. The number of users are still to small to generate the volume of sales it needs to survive in the long run. I loved my zune…until I picked up an Android smartphone. I would love to have zune pass content on my phone, but its easier to just get a new music provider than to switch smartphone ecosystems. Zunepass is too expensive compared to be tied to a single set of devices. Create more value by allowing the zunepass content (yes mp3s play all over) on other devices. people who are buying a wp7 phone with its dataplan costs are most likely not going to also pay 15$ a month for zunepass. The ipod ecosystem doesn’t have a monthly fee, which to cost concious families may be seen as a cost savings.

    • http://macrosofter.wordpress.com/ quikboy

      “The ipod ecosystem doesn’t have a monthly fee, which to cost concious families may be seen as a cost savings.” – Zune Pass is not required. It’s optional. iTunes doesn’t have such a monthly ‘fee’ because it’s not even a choice. So Zune Pass does not and should not deter people from getting a Zune or WP7 phone.

      The fact that Zune is exclusive to the Microsoft ecosystem, is meant to be a draw to encourage people to buy more products in that ecosystem. More money made from getting people to adopt the ecosystem, than that paid through Zune Pass fees. Plus it’d be hard for Microsoft to manage Zune Pass accounts on devices outside the Microsoft ecosystem, thus record companies not willing to allow their music on Zune Pass anymore.

      • http://jeftek.com Jef

        The world has moved on from “the device is my service” mentality though. Look at Netflix, amazon, even hulu. They are more and more device agnostic, so their reach toward customers is larger. Mobile Xbox live games on WP7 is great, but its ONLY on wp7 so once again its reach and adoption is limited. While I am not a playstation fan, what they are doing with their playstation suite, bringing it to multiple hardware platforms will make it more attractive to the consumer. Developers and media companies want to make money by having the largest possible consumer audience who can purchase their wares.

        I have been a big fan of Zune since before it came out (check http://jeftek.com/tag/zune/ ), and still think its the best music service that hardly anyone uses in comparison to others. The environment has changed, and if Zune is to survive it needs to be set free from device lock in.

  • Christian Stefan

    Looks like Ovi Music Store will replace Zune on Nokia devices, i.e. Nokia phones will include the Ovi Music Store (and maybe Zune too), all the other phones will include Zune only.

    Nokia has invested heaviliy into licensing deals in 23 countries and I don’t think they are allowed to sub license to Microsoft.

  • Christian Stefan

    Looks like Ovi Music Store will replace Zune on Nokia devices, i.e. Nokia phones will include the Ovi Music Store (and maybe Zune too), all the other phones will include Zune only.

    Nokia has invested heaviliy into licensing deals in 23 countries and I don’t think they are allowed to sub license to Microsoft.

  • http://www.blog.fludlyt.com Fludlyt

    Since the original Zune it seems as if they haven’t even tried to market the product or push it out into other territories until the release of Windows Phone. I can understand the complexities in music licensing deals but if Apple were able to sort this out with iTunes then surely Microsoft could also do a finer job at it.

    Either way if this is true, I hope it will be limited to Nokia devices. Zune is a cool brand that they simply need to make people aware of on a global scale.

  • http://www.flavors.me/fludlyt Fludlyt

    Since the original Zune it seems as if they haven’t even tried to market the product or push it out into other territories until the release of Windows Phone. I can understand the complexities in music licensing deals but if Apple were able to sort this out with iTunes then surely Microsoft could also do a finer job at it.

    Either way if this is true, I hope it will be limited to Nokia devices. Zune is a cool brand that they simply need to make people aware of on a global scale.

  • http://twitter.com/JLancaster3 J Lancaster

    You can sync Zune music on android. Use windows media player to sync. Also when you buy songs as mp3 they can go on any device. My wife has an iPhone and ipad,and I buy songs from Zune and put them on her stuff.

    • http://jeftek.com Jef

      J,

      As I mentioned, yes you can buy tracks (or use the included 10 credits) as mp3s and sync them to pretty much any device. The issue is, if you do not get the full benefits of zunepass (unlimited downloads) on a non MS device, the less of a value it is for consumers. With almost a million new smartphones being activated a day, which cannot use zunepass content, consumers will pick other services. iTunes is not tied to a single device family anymore, and neither are the other services.

      I was excited about zune media coming to xbox 360, but unfortunately the way it is done it is a bit gimped. It only works as a standalone app, but you can’t stream music while playing games unfortunately.

      The value of zune pass is still not setup for sharing or family packs. I would have thought with the advent of Xbox family pack, zune would also get the same love, but no. As new smartphone buyers have even more choices, they need to make zunepass more enticing than all the other services out there.

      I had posted about this awhile back: http://jeftek.com/227/share-your-zune-pass-not-your-social/

      • John Michael

        Just a heads up Jef, you can absolutely stream Zune while playing games. I stream right from my computer during Call of Duty or Appache. The songs don’t come in until after the start menu so you must be playing from your Zune first before you load the game. Maybe it depends on the game. In my opinion, as an audiophile, Zune is the best thing since sliced bread. I download daily. Ask my wife! Zune Pass is more important to me than my gym membership by a landslide. It would really ruin my world if Zune disappeared.

  • J Lancaster

    You can sync Zune music on android. Use windows media player to sync. Also when you buy songs as mp3 they can go on any device. My wife has an iPhone and ipad,and I buy songs from Zune and put them on her stuff.

    • http://jeftek.com Jef

      J,

      As I mentioned, yes you can buy tracks (or use the included 10 credits) as mp3s and sync them to pretty much any device. The issue is, if you do not get the full benefits of zunepass (unlimited downloads) on a non MS device, the less of a value it is for consumers. With almost a million new smartphones being activated a day, which cannot use zunepass content, consumers will pick other services. iTunes is not tied to a single device family anymore, and neither are the other services.

      I was excited about zune media coming to xbox 360, but unfortunately the way it is done it is a bit gimped. It only works as a standalone app, but you can’t stream music while playing games unfortunately.

      The value of zune pass is still not setup for sharing or family packs. I would have thought with the advent of Xbox family pack, zune would also get the same love, but no. As new smartphone buyers have even more choices, they need to make zunepass more enticing than all the other services out there.

      I had posted about this awhile back: http://jeftek.com/227/share-your-zune-pass-not-your-social/

      • John Michael

        Just a heads up Jef, you can absolutely stream Zune while playing games. I stream right from my computer during Call of Duty or Appache. The songs don’t come in until after the start menu so you must be playing from your Zune first before you load the game. Maybe it depends on the game. In my opinion, as an audiophile, Zune is the best thing since sliced bread. I download daily. Ask my wife! Zune Pass is more important to me than my gym membership by a landslide. It would really ruin my world if Zune disappeared.

  • The Black Mamba

    It will be a big slap in the face if Microsoft halft the Zune movement. I am a big fan of Zune, that includes the device as well. So, any movevent to slow down the momentum as Zune will simply shows Microsoft has no idea what a good consumber brand is. One of the reasons I am so big on WP7 is for built-in features like the Zune.

    The only way for Nokia/Microsoft partnership should affect Zune is only they widen the library of song, TV shows and movies that are already available. Ovi and Zune combine will make the zune device, and even XBox more enticing to many, I mean lots of people, The potential of the deal is tremendous for consumers, well Microsoft consumers.

  • The Black Mamba

    It will be a big slap in the face if Microsoft halft the Zune movement. I am a big fan of Zune, that includes the device as well. So, any movevent to slow down the momentum as Zune will simply shows Microsoft has no idea what a good consumber brand is. One of the reasons I am so big on WP7 is for built-in features like the Zune.

    The only way for Nokia/Microsoft partnership should affect Zune is only they widen the library of song, TV shows and movies that are already available. Ovi and Zune combine will make the zune device, and even XBox more enticing to many, I mean lots of people, The potential of the deal is tremendous for consumers, well Microsoft consumers.

  • Webguy

    Maybe there will be a Zune tablet announced at MIX 11 :)

    I can dream can’t I?

    • http://jeftek.com Jef

      Microsoft already has tablet OS strategy issues…..we don’t need to add more fuel to the fire :)

  • Webguy

    Maybe there will be a Zune tablet announced at MIX 11 :)

    I can dream can’t I?

    • http://jeftek.com Jef

      Microsoft already has tablet OS strategy issues…..we don’t need to add more fuel to the fire :)

  • Anonymous

    Me, as well as many fans of the Zune brand will be sorely pissed if Microsoft were to just dissolve it. Many have already bought into the ecosystem, have tried our best to promote it, and to see Microsoft just killing it like so many of their other products will continue to undermine the stability in adopting any Microsoft product besides Windows, Office, and Xbox.

    Nobody wants to invest in something that could lose, and I think the mass market has responded that way in general regarding many of Microsoft products or services, and Microsoft is just feeding the flames if they kill Zune.

  • http://macrosofter.wordpress.com/ quikboy

    Me, as well as many fans of the Zune brand will be sorely pissed if Microsoft were to just dissolve it. Many have already bought into the ecosystem, have tried our best to promote it, and to see Microsoft just killing it like so many of their other products will continue to undermine the stability in adopting any Microsoft product besides Windows, Office, and Xbox.

    Nobody wants to invest in something that could lose, and I think the mass market has responded that way in general regarding many of Microsoft products or services, and Microsoft is just feeding the flames if they kill Zune.

  • http://jeftek.com Jef

    this does not sound like a good strategy. It will dillute the ecosystem since there will be feature fragmentation between WP7 devices. If the plan is to offer zune AND ovi on Nokia devices is fine, but Zune needs to be accessiable on all WP7 devices if it is to remain a standout feature of WP7. Zune needs to be a separate service that a consumer can choose to use, not the device manufacturer can choose to block

  • http://jeftek.com Jef

    this does not sound like a good strategy. It will dillute the ecosystem since there will be feature fragmentation between WP7 devices. If the plan is to offer zune AND ovi on Nokia devices is fine, but Zune needs to be accessiable on all WP7 devices if it is to remain a standout feature of WP7. Zune needs to be a separate service that a consumer can choose to use, not the device manufacturer can choose to block

  • Ruben

    Good riddance! As MS seems incapable of shipping Zune across the borders (leaving countries without WP7-marketplace) the service should be dropped, and the Live accounts be used for all things WP7-related.

    Zune appears inferior to Spotify anyway.

  • Ruben

    Good riddance! As MS seems incapable of shipping Zune across the borders (leaving countries without WP7-marketplace) the service should be dropped, and the Live accounts be used for all things WP7-related.

    Zune appears inferior to Spotify anyway.