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February 9, 2007

Zune to cannibalize Windows Mobile like it did PlaysForSure?

Posted by David Hunter at 12:02 PM ET.

The ink on last year’s Microsoft Zune press releases was barely dry when speculation started about a Zune Phone egged on by CEO Steve Ballmer. Now the rumors are heating up again after John Letzing at MarketWatch spotted a likely FCC filing. However, reading the fine print reveals a strange duck that is “an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) device to be used for ‘consumer broadband access and networking.’” The general suspicion is that this means WiMAX which is a high bandwidth wireless technology that is just getting off the ground. To add to the mystery, Google, HP, and Intel are listed as a supporters of the FCC application.

However, Matt Hickey at CrunchGear fans the flames with the speculation that a Zune phone would run on a high speed 4G WiMAX network like the one to be built by Sprint/Nextel. This lash-up could provide a mobile VoIP offering plus the likely ability to use ordinary Wi-Fi hotspots. Even better, CrunchGear’s inside sources say that the Zune phone will be announced in March and shipped in May thus neatly upstaging Apple’s iPhone.

All of this is certainly exciting, but the idea of a Zune Phone brings up the more fundamental question of where it would leave Microsoft’s Windows Mobile partners who are ready to show off their new Windows Mobile 6 handsets next week at 3GSM. Microsoft’s Zune crew apparently has license to run roughshod over other parts of Microsoft and their partnerships as evidenced by the hapless PlaysForSure partners (e.g. Creative Technologies, iRiver, Samsung) who got blindsided by the Zune portable media player itself last year. A Zune Phone in whatever form hits right at the phone vendors who have signed up for Windows Mobile (e.g. Samsung, Palm, HTC, Motorola, LG) just when it was showing signs of success, at least in the USA. Beyond the technical particulars, the real Zune Phone question then is whether Microsoft is willing yet again to shutter one of their own projects and cannibalize their partners’ markets in favor of rolling their own.

Update: Microsoft says FCC filing not Zune-related. Fair enough, but as long as the Zune Phone remains a possibility there will still be an inherent conflict with Windows Mobile.

Filed under 3GSM07, Apple, Argo, Conferences, Coopetition, Microsoft, Palm, PlaysForSure, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, Technologies, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6, Zune

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6 Responses to “Zune to cannibalize Windows Mobile like it did PlaysForSure?”

  1. Kylie Manders Says:

    I really doubt the PlaysForSure community feels cannabilized by Zune. If anything, Microsoft gave them some exclusivity. Do you have to spin negative on any sort of news?

    Chill out dude and lets all wait for the mighty Zune phone!

  2. David Hunter Says:

    I assume you mean exclusivity in the sense of what the last surviving passengers on the Titanic had before it sank beneath the waves.

  3. Microsoft formally unveils Windows Mobile 6 -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Microsoft doesn’t sell its own phones–yet–but handset companies like Motorola and HTC pay the company a license fee for each Windows Mobile phone they make. Well they do now, but the rumored Zune Phone changes all the bets. Filed under Windows Mobile, Crossbow, Microsoft, Argo, Zune [...]

  4. Microsoft announces PlayReady mobile DRM technology -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Also interesting, but still forthcoming, will be the details on whether PlayReady actually plays nicely with the old Microsoft PlaysForSure DRM specification (based on Windows Media DRM 10) which some current mobile phones support, not to mention the new and incompatible Zune DRM (aka “Microsoft’s future“)which presumably will be on the rumored Zune Phone. Filed under Coopetition, Digital Media, Technologies, Windows Mobile, DRM, Media Player, Crossbow, Portable Media Center, Verizon, Cingular, Microsoft, Argo, Zune, AT&T, PlayReady, PlaysForSure [...]

  5. Microsoft mystery device goes to FCC next week -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] You may recall an odd device under development by Microsoft that caused a stir in early February when it was mistaken for a Zune phone. Well, it’s back in the news and may cause even a bigger stir as John Letzing explains at MarketWatch: When Microsoft Corp. delivers a mysterious prototype for government testing this coming week, it will mark a crucial juncture for a high-stakes bid to change the way consumers get their Internet access. [...]

  6. Nokia signs up for Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Hmm, no word about the Zune which continues to have its own little DRM walled garden, but DRM 10 was marketed as the PlaysForSure program. I’m sure Nokia is aware of what happened to Microsoft’s erstwhile PlaysForSure partners since Nokia was one of them, but they likely don’t care since they aren’t betting the ranch on it, but merely adding support. If a proprietary Zune phone comes along, so be it, but in the meantime why not sell some music on whatever platforms are convenient?   Filed under Coopetition, Technologies, Windows Mobile, DRM, Windows Mobile 6, Nokia, Microsoft, Argo, Zune, PlayReady, PlaysForSure   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

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