Zune hardware biz developer: "I'll be going to work tomorrow"

Microsoft has responded to the "Zune (hardware) is dead" meme that has taken off like a hurricane ever since the Bloomberg article the other day:

“We have nothing to announce about another Zune device -- but most recently have introduced Zune HD to Canada via the Zune Originals store and remain committed to supporting our devices in North America,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”

That sure doesn't sound like a denial, lending more credence to the Bloomberg claim from "sources familiar". Now, Dave McLauchlan, who does business development at Microsoft for the Zune HD, has now responded in the Anything But Ipod forums, where he's been a member since 2006. While not revealing anything too specific, it sure sounds as if the story is more...complicated...than Bloomberg has made it out to be. We'll just quote the meaty parts of his post:

"I've had tweets, emails, PMs and phone calls. People offering condolences, checking in on me, etc... etc... Stop, stop, stop!The Bloomberg article is NOT an official statement from Microsoft (apart from the quote above). The headline is purportedly from a "person familiar with the matter" - which of course tells you nothing.Here's what you should know - ALL consumer electronics products have a lifespan, and the Zune HD is 18mo old. We were completely frank about this year's Zune hardware being the WP7 phones, and we continue to both sell and fully support the Zune HD line of products. And as I've promised - we continue to bring new apps and games to the platform. More of those are in the works, I promise you.I manage business development for Zune hardware, and I still have that job. Our PR folks released a statement today that included the text: "We’ll share more information about the evolution of the Zune entertainment service and Zune hardware as future plans develop."To be 100% clear - NO information about our future plans, no matter what the incarnation, has been shared. Until then treat with healthy skepticism anything you read. That's probably a good general rule actually.So for those who tweeted or emailed asking what I'm "going to do now" - I'll be going to work tomorrow, working on Zune hardware bizdev. And when Microsoft announces news that is actually news, you'll hear it from us directly, and I'll be sure to pass it on immediately. Only then should you take it as gospel."Cheers, Dave.

We're not 100% sure what to make of this outside he still has a job working on Zune hardware and evidently it's not as black and white as everyone seems to be thinking it is. Of course if Zune hardware is dead, it forces the question of why Microsoft, and now McLauchlan, are pushing backing looking to clarify the matter. Like we said, we think there may be more to this story than what we know so far.

Source: Anything But Ipod Forums; via ZuneBoards; Thanks, @hallucinogen52

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I think MS has a few plans for Zune and no one has all the info outside of the Zune devision people. I think MS has an idea, new Zune devices aside I believe they're thinking about licensing the Zune OS, a newer version of what the ZuneHD has, out to other OEM PMP makers.Does that mean no more MS made devices? I doubt it, really they know there's a demand for a WP7 device without the phone but don't want to release it quickly because there's a very strong change it'll eat into future WP7 sales as well. Also they have to get the deal with Nokia done and get access to Nokias European and any Asian media licensing so they can finally push the Zune marketplace fully out. Like finally selling music and not just video in some countries. In the end, new hardware is nice but a Zune device with half the Zune service isn't all that great for MS, it looks bad on them.
  • I agree that the strategy you outlined makes the most sense. In my opinion, the Zune features of WP7 need to evolve to incorporate all the options curently in the Zune HD. Once they have that done I think a WP7 based device makes sense so you can share the ecosystem and games equaly between the two devices. Then you can license the OS to other OEMs and give iFruit a run for their money.
  • Microsoft hasn't played into the "you have to refresh the hardware every year" rule before. The 2nd gen models went two full years without a refresh. The HD has been out 18 month but it's hardly obsolete for what it was designed for. They have a lot of resources tied up right now with WP7 and so new Zune hardware isn't much of a priority but there's no reason to believe it won't happen in the future, either from MS themselves or if they pass things off to a 3rd party like Samsung and simply continue building the OS.
  • I'll tell you that the single biggest effect for me when I got the Samsung Focus and got to experience the mobile power of the Zune ecosystem was that I went out and got a Zune HD and a Zune **** Given the Zune **** s three device rule I think a lot of new WP7 users will opt in to the Zune **** and a Zune player just to take advantage of the system. Focus on growing the WP7 base and the Zune HD population will grow along with it.
  • I agree with the posters above. Once the Nokia deal results in a few devices, Mango is rolled out, and WP7 grows some more, we will start to see some non-Phone versions of the device out there. It will just take a little time...