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March 27, 2007

Microsoft spins off ZenZui

Posted by David Hunter at 10:38 AM ET.

Microsoft has announced another spinoff under their IP Ventures program:

Microsoft Corp. today announced the launch of ZenZui, an independent company with the mission of transforming the way people engage, consume and interact with Web content through a revolutionary mobile user experience and information ecosystem. ZenZui’s Zooming User Interface, a technology patented by Microsoft, was initially developed by the Microsoft Research lab in Redmond, Wash. Microsoft’s IP Ventures helps startups and growing companies speed their time to market through access to Microsoft innovations. ZenZui worked with IP Ventures to acquire the technology and assistance in securing venture capital funding to help launch its company.

ZenZui’s core technology brings advanced information visualization techniques out of the research lab and onto mobile phones and into the hands of mobile device operators, marketers and consumers. ZenZui’s high-frame rate Zooming User Interface employs up to 36 individual “tiles” that are selected and customized by users to reflect their interests and lifestyle with relevant content, interactive communications and fresh data.

ZenZui has closed a Series-A financing round of $12 million from Oak Investment Partners and Hunt Ventures. Wireless entrepreneur Tom Huseby of SeaPoint Ventures acts as chairman of the board. Leading ZenZui as CEO is Eric Hertz, who brings 22 years of international wireless experience to the venture.

If the description of the technology is somewhat obtuse, this demo video will help as will Nick Gonzalez’s description from Techcrunch:

The whole service is a a clever way to increase deck placement on mobile phones. Deck placement is the set of default applications that come on mobile phones. It’s the most coveted space on your mobile and distribution through deck placement makes or breaks most mobile apps. Currently deck placement is hard to come by because it’s determined by carriers at the highest levels and often includes some revenue sharing. ZenZui application has essentially turned one spot into 36 (they hope to make it 1000).

This would all be well and good if ZenZui wasn’t essentially doing the same thing carriers are doing right now, charging for placement. You see, ZenZui isn’t a new way to surf the web on your phone, but rather a new way to surf ZenZui’s web on your phone. It’s all elegantly summed up in this chart showing marketers and developers piping content into your phone.

Each of the 36 spots currently included with ZenZui are powered by content partners, such as Zillow, Eventful, Kayak, OTOlabs, Avenue A, Razorfish and They will be monetized using “well-established advertising principles like CPA and CPM (we call it CPZ – Cost Per Zoom)”. To encourage development, ZenZui will split ad revenue with widget developers.

I knew there was sure to be some money in the deal somewhere. Also, although it is not spelled out explicity in the press release, it is being generally reported that Microsoft reatins an equity stake in the company.

Filed under Coopetition, IP Ventures, Microsoft, Microsoft Research, Patents, Zumobi

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4 Responses to “Microsoft spins off ZenZui”

  1. Bob Says:

    Interesting. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this absent from MSFT’s own Mobile offering? If so, doesn’t it seem strange that they wouldn’t have included it exactly so carriers could have leveraged more advertising?

  2. David Hunter Says:

    Agreed, although I think you can argue it either way. At least it isn’t as directly competitive with Microsoft’s own offerings as the Wallop IP Venture.

  3. Google mobile search riposte -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Did someone declare that today was mobile phone day? On top of the news from Microsoft/ZenZui and Yahoo, it turns out that Google chose today to release a new search for mobile phones: For the last few weeks, some of our users have been test-driving our new mobile search and providing us with feedback so we can make it better. Now, we’ve actually been using your feedback to improve our mobile search since 2001. But the steps we’ve taken recently have everyone here pretty excited, as they increase the power of our search technology, helping you get the answers you need with minimal effort and distraction. [...]

  4. Windows CE 6.0 R2 launches tomorrow -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] In other Windows Mobile news, Microsoft spinoff ZenZui (soon to be renamed Zumobi) announced an open beta of their mobile phone Web browsing service/interface for Windows Mobile phones.   Filed under Coopetition, Embedded, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Photon, Microsoft, ZenZui   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

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