Zune rumors heat up: how does Windows Live fit in?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted February 15, 2011 28 comments

zune-logoWe told you about Paul Thurrott’s early mentions about a possible Zune rebrand, and then in a post titled “Questions Remain in the wake of a Microsoft / Nokia Partnership”, Thurrott drops more hints:

And what about Zune? Although both companies talked up virtually all Windows Phone-based services, Zune was conspicuously missing—both in discussions from both Elop and Ballmer and on a global reach marketing slide that was created by both companies. My sources tell me that the Zune brand is on the way out and that all Zune products and services will be moved into other businesses, including Windows Live. Zune will essentially cease to exist under this plan.

(emphasis ours)

Then today in All About Microsoft, Mary Jo Foley chimed in with “Is Microsoft Zune about to be Kinned?”, and now everyone’s all atwitter.  Mary Jo asked Microsoft what was going on, and got this reply:

A spokesperson responded to my question late in the day of February 14:

“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.”

Conspiracy theorists could read into the statement: that even though Zune services/features aren’t being killed, the spokesperson does not make mention of the actual “Zune” brand, leaving the possibility open for just the scenario that Thurrott suggests above.

So where does Windows Live fit in?  One possibility we’ve been toying with is this: Microsoft makes a consolidation effort across the Zune software, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Center, pulling the latter two out of Windows, and creating “Windows Live Media Player”.  Like Windows Live Movie Maker and Windows Live Mail, this would fall right into the concept of Windows Live as a “value add” service for Windows, at the same time reducing the core Windows footprint and allowing the Windows team to focus on core functionality.

On the Being Manan blog, our friend Manan Kakkar suggests as well that this new player could function not only as a media player, and a Windows Phone sync client, but also become the client for a Windows App Store.

That leave the Zune services, which are already heavily aligned with Xbox, and rebranding them as Xbox Entertainment Services or some such would pretty much complete the process.  Zune services and products are unique and valuable, but the Zune brand is largely unknown outside the US, and carries a negative or uninspired connotation within the US.  As Mary Jo says, the Zune devices could become Xbox branded game/music/video players.

All of this is total and pure wild speculation at this point, of course, except for the puffs of smoke coming from Windows Supersite.  Don’t count out what Thurrott is saying, though, we think he just may be on to something.

(edit) Our friend Michael Gillett has posted some of his future of Zune thoughts, too, and of course this is a game we can all play: what do you think will happen with Zune?

Posted February 15th, 2011 at 10:44 am
Category: Featured, News
Tags: Windows Live, Zune
  • Anonymous

    The Zune brand carries a negative or uninspired connotation? Really? I thought it was one of the better brands in the Microsoft universe. I know people who like the Zune brand but not Windows at all. And Zune isn’t well known outside the U.S. because in most countries it is only present for 3 months or even not available until today.

    The integration into Windows Live does not make much sense to me because the whole service is seperate. Just like Xbox or Bing.

    If they will integrate their music service back into Windows-land they also should rebrand Bing to Windows Live Search … ooh well …

    Personally, I think they should expand the Zune brand and release an official Zune Phone to push the hardware for WP7 into the right direction. Just like Google did with the Nexus series.

    And next year they should release a Zune Tab with Windows 8. ;)

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      No doubt that there’s a strong (but small) Zune following (just think what that poor Zune tattoo guy must be going through about now!). For those who haven’t tried Zune/Windows Phone yet, the Zune brand is confusing at best. Xbox has a much greater reach, as does Windows Live.

  • tN0

    The Zune brand carries a negative or uninspired connotation? Really? I thought it was one of the better brands in the Microsoft universe. I know people who like the Zune brand but not Windows at all. And Zune isn’t well known outside the U.S. because in most countries it is only present for 3 months or even not available until today.

    The integration into Windows Live does not make much sense to me because the whole service is seperate. Just like Xbox or Bing.

    If they will integrate their music service back into Windows-land they also should rebrand Bing to Windows Live Search … ooh well …

    Personally, I think they should expand the Zune brand and release an official Zune Phone to push the hardware for WP7 into the right direction. Just like Google did with the Nexus series.

    And next year they should release a Zune Tab with Windows 8. ;)

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      No doubt that there’s a strong (but small) Zune following (just think what that poor Zune tattoo guy must be going through about now!). For those who haven’t tried Zune/Windows Phone yet, the Zune brand is confusing at best. Xbox has a much greater reach, as does Windows Live.

  • Brian

    I am a long time Zune user after pulling my hair out with an iPod and iTunes and its need to covert my music, etc. etc…now an owner of 16, 32 and a 64GB ZuneHD’s, I would hate for it to all go away…the Zune Player is a joy to use and I like it much better than the Windows Media Player that came with Windows 7…it felt stripped down.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      We believe the MS spokesperson that the services will not be going away, this is about a rebrand, and a shift in focus as to where the various pieces fall within the Microsoft organization.

  • Brian

    I am a long time Zune user after pulling my hair out with an iPod and iTunes and its need to covert my music, etc. etc…now an owner of 16, 32 and a 64GB ZuneHD’s, I would hate for it to all go away…the Zune Player is a joy to use and I like it much better than the Windows Media Player that came with Windows 7…it felt stripped down.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      We believe the MS spokesperson that the services will not be going away, this is about a rebrand, and a shift in focus as to where the various pieces fall within the Microsoft organization.

  • majg

    Yay! More consumer confusing ensues! MS, we love you man!

    Ok, that sucks. But Xbox 360 (kinect), Xbox companion (ZHD2) and Xbox Slates with built in Windows Live functionality so we cn Skydrive our docs/pics/apps/games etc. could be bundled to push a sole brand vs. multiple. Consumers don’t like windows but seem to like Xbox.

    Windows live should be truncated to just Live. Integrate Xbox.com and Live.com. Or make Live.com a youtube competitor (with a partnership with Facebook).

    Who the heck knows anymore.

    Who the heck knows. MS is so dizzying to try and keep tabs on.

  • majg

    Yay! More consumer confusing ensues! MS, we love you man!

    Ok, that sucks. But Xbox 360 (kinect), Xbox companion (ZHD2) and Xbox Slates with built in Windows Live functionality so we cn Skydrive our docs/pics/apps/games etc. could be bundled to push a sole brand vs. multiple. Consumers don’t like windows but seem to like Xbox.

    Windows live should be truncated to just Live. Integrate Xbox.com and Live.com. Or make Live.com a youtube competitor (with a partnership with Facebook).

    Who the heck knows anymore.

    Who the heck knows. MS is so dizzying to try and keep tabs on.

  • Brian

    I agree Microsoft makes things needlessly confusing…they are sitting on a very good thing buy they never know how to bring things together…I use my XBOX 360 mainly to stream my personal music with pictures slideshow with Windows Media Center…in addition, I use Zune…I do think their entire multimedia “stuff” should be rebranded and into one suite…

  • Brian

    I agree Microsoft makes things needlessly confusing…they are sitting on a very good thing buy they never know how to bring things together…I use my XBOX 360 mainly to stream my personal music with pictures slideshow with Windows Media Center…in addition, I use Zune…I do think their entire multimedia “stuff” should be rebranded and into one suite…

  • Ali

    Leave it as Zune. Putting under the Xbox (games) banner makes no sense as a cross-platform service… Putting it under Windows Live makes even less sense, and we all know what happens when Microsoft puts products that don’t fit into Windows Live (hint: they die).

    Leave it as Zune, work with Nokia on a phone-free WP7 device (HD2), roll in Nokia’s European licensing to expand the services outside the US and let people know about the Zune Pass… If they’d get behind the service a little, it would be doing better as it is… It’s already gaining some traction and recognition in the UK (where the services are a little more fleshed out than elsewhere in the world).

    As for Zune having a negative brand, forget about it… So did Windows (during Vista), so did Windows Phone (during the Windows Mobile 6.5 days – people forget that 6.5 was branded and advertsied as Windows Phone)… Just focus on rolling out the service and let people warm to the brand, as they’ve done with WP7, Windows 7 and Bing…

  • Ali

    Leave it as Zune. Putting under the Xbox (games) banner makes no sense as a cross-platform service… Putting it under Windows Live makes even less sense, and we all know what happens when Microsoft puts products that don’t fit into Windows Live (hint: they die).

    Leave it as Zune, work with Nokia on a phone-free WP7 device (HD2), roll in Nokia’s European licensing to expand the services outside the US and let people know about the Zune Pass… If they’d get behind the service a little, it would be doing better as it is… It’s already gaining some traction and recognition in the UK (where the services are a little more fleshed out than elsewhere in the world).

    As for Zune having a negative brand, forget about it… So did Windows (during Vista), so did Windows Phone (during the Windows Mobile 6.5 days – people forget that 6.5 was branded and advertsied as Windows Phone)… Just focus on rolling out the service and let people warm to the brand, as they’ve done with WP7, Windows 7 and Bing…

  • Anonymous

    I’m hoping that Zune stays as a brand but is strictly used for hardware.

    Zune HD2 running Windows Not-Phone

  • uberlaff

    I’m hoping that Zune stays as a brand but is strictly used for hardware.

    Zune HD2 running Windows Not-Phone

  • Anonymous

    Oh.. and I hope they ditch the Windows Live Brand as well.. Why is it that everything MS makes has to have Windows in its name?

    Even this website had the sense not to call itself Windows Live Side.

    MS needs a branding consultant…

  • uberlaff

    Oh.. and I hope they ditch the Windows Live Brand as well.. Why is it that everything MS makes has to have Windows in its name?

    Even this website had the sense not to call itself Windows Live Side.

    MS needs a branding consultant…

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

    I can understand why Zune was not played up in the Microsoft/Nokia Announcement.. Nokia is a Finish company.. guess what.. ZUNE DOESN’T EXIST there.. well it doesn’t exist in 3/4 of the globe.. Any wonder it’s being played down with this deal, I’m not? (It’s not as if Zune has iTunes coverage though we all wish it did….)

  • Stefan

    I can understand why Zune was not played up in the Microsoft/Nokia Announcement.. Nokia is a Finish company.. guess what.. ZUNE DOESN’T EXIST there.. well it doesn’t exist in 3/4 of the globe.. Any wonder it’s being played down with this deal, I’m not? (It’s not as if Zune has iTunes coverage though we all wish it did….)

  • http://oblogdoleandro.blogspot.com Leandro

    I think that killing the Zune brand would be a huge mistake. If the problem is how the brand is seen outside the US, they can make campains to help the brand acceptance.

    Windows Live is Microsoft’s brand for Internet services, Xbox is for Games(and I think they could rebrand Games for Windows for some brand with Xbox) and Zune is for media. Putting Zune’s services in the others brand would let these things confused, instead of simplifying.

    And taking off a music player from Windows is something stupid. They would need to create a music equivalent for Windows Photo Viewer, because this is a simple function that we could be able to do without installing any program(If we need more than music playback, we can download Zune). But, if they need to create a new program, is better let the old one there.

    Summarizing: Microsoft, don’t kill Zune brand.

    • Damaster – LiveSide.net

      If they do end up making a “Windows Live Media Player”, I do believe they would still have a music/media equivalent of Windows Photo Viewer come pre-installed in Windows.

      Let not forget Zune is a cloud service, so putting it in Windows Live does kind of make sense. If we think outside the square (rather than concentrating on the existing Zune offerings), we can actually see how music/media would fit into the Windows Live strategy. Imagine you’d be able to download and store all media files on the cloud (SkyDrive and Mesh), then stream them across to Windows Phones (particularly future lower-end Nokia WPs that has limited storage) and other devices. This is much like the Home Server Vail being able to stream media to WP7, however instead of a Home Server, SkyDrive is your personal cloud. Of course, sharing and copyright would probably be restricted due to copyright issues.

      This is, of course, just speculation. But if it does eventuate, it’d be interesting to see how it plays out.

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

      “If the problem is how the brand is seen outside the US, they can make campains to help the brand acceptance”.

      They can campaign all they like, but until they fix the service issues for non-US customers, the Zune brand will continue to be perceived negatively. It is completely brain-dead of Microsoft to not make the App Marketplace available to customers living in countries where WP7 phones are officially available and supported by local carriers.

  • http://about.me/lapsrj Leandro

    I think that killing the Zune brand would be a huge mistake. If the problem is how the brand is seen outside the US, they can make campains to help the brand acceptance.

    Windows Live is Microsoft’s brand for Internet services, Xbox is for Games(and I think they could rebrand Games for Windows for some brand with Xbox) and Zune is for media. Putting Zune’s services in the others brand would let these things confused, instead of simplifying.

    And taking off a music player from Windows is something stupid. They would need to create a music equivalent for Windows Photo Viewer, because this is a simple function that we could be able to do without installing any program(If we need more than music playback, we can download Zune). But, if they need to create a new program, is better let the old one there.

    Summarizing: Microsoft, don’t kill Zune brand.

    • damaster

      If they do end up making a “Windows Live Media Player”, I do believe they would still have a music/media equivalent of Windows Photo Viewer come pre-installed in Windows.

      Let not forget Zune is a cloud service, so putting it in Windows Live does kind of make sense. If we think outside the square (rather than concentrating on the existing Zune offerings), we can actually see how music/media would fit into the Windows Live strategy. Imagine you’d be able to download and store all media files on the cloud (SkyDrive and Mesh), then stream them across to Windows Phones (particularly future lower-end Nokia WPs that has limited storage) and other devices. This is much like the Home Server Vail being able to stream media to WP7, however instead of a Home Server, SkyDrive is your personal cloud. Of course, sharing and copyright would probably be restricted due to copyright issues.

      This is, of course, just speculation. But if it does eventuate, it’d be interesting to see how it plays out.

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

      “If the problem is how the brand is seen outside the US, they can make campains to help the brand acceptance”.

      They can campaign all they like, but until they fix the service issues for non-US customers, the Zune brand will continue to be perceived negatively. It is completely brain-dead of Microsoft to not make the App Marketplace available to customers living in countries where WP7 phones are officially available and supported by local carriers.

  • George-king

    As long as they make the services available to us Zune and WP7 loving Mac users, they can call it whatever they want.

    With Nokia on board, it makes sense to go all in, and have the services available to Mac users.

  • George-king

    As long as they make the services available to us Zune and WP7 loving Mac users, they can call it whatever they want.

    With Nokia on board, it makes sense to go all in, and have the services available to Mac users.