There was a time, not too many years ago, when nearly every strategic decision that Microsoft made seemed to be pure folly. Then Microsoft woke up one day, put all that aside, launched Windows 7, and never looked back.
However, even a company on a roll can make a boo-boo now and again. Today, news came forth that seems to point to an upcoming mistake by Redmond: the rebranding or reorganizing of its Zune music product into something altogether different. This could merely be a name change, but could also be the complete disintegration of the Zune brand into a diffuse set of other Microsoft divisions.
Let me put my hand up and say with a the loudest voice that I can muster: No thank you.
The rumored change from the Zune moniker into something else has several flavors. Zune might become part of Windows Live, meaning that its name might change and little else. That alone raises problems. Without the Zune brand name, Microsoft would have a hard time releasing hardware; Windows Live Personal Media Player Pro Edition, anyone? Secondly, would the Zune media player become ‘Windows Live Media Player?’ Zune media player, which I use all day long every day of the week has nothing to do with my Windows Live experience, something that I positively prefer, except that my account has the same login information.
Now, it could be that Microsoft really shoots itself in the foot, and decides to shatter Zune into small pieces, giving it to a number of groups inside the company. Pray that they are not that foolish. What would happen to the Zune Pass? It’s all broken once you tear apart the brand and hand the product to people who never manged to get music and media right in the first place. Zune was Microsoft’s internal answer to its failed previous music efforts just as WP7 is its internal answer to its failed previous smartphone efforts. Why hurt a good thing?
The only option that has been discussed in the media today that does not literally screw the pooch is an Xbox alternative. To quote the ever insightful Mary-Jo Foley:
I’m thinking that Microsoft may opt to rebrand Zune as “Xbox entertainment,” rather than anything to do with Windows Live. After all, the Zune service already is available on the Xbox. And the rumored Zune HD2 — supposedly a device meant to compete with the iPod Touch — easily could be positioned and marketed as a portable gaming device.
Some veteran Microsoft heavy-hitters are moving to the Xbox division, as I’ve blogged recently, and are seemingly working on some kind of services-focused project. And the Zune team — which Microsoft split and reorged (twice) — is already in the Interactive Entertainment Business division, which is the home of the Xbox. Maybe the Zune service will end up as part of the evolving Microsoft IPTV strategy?
This has the possibility of being compelling, aside from the fact that it crosses streams. I don’t own an Xbox, nor do I want one. I want music. Zune is currently the best ecosystem to listen to music on, something that I bet will get lost if Zune is changed dramatically or given away inside of Redmond. Zune media player is the best in the market, and Zune on Windows Phone 7 is a treat to use. Compare it to the music management solution on your iPad and you will see what I mean.
If Microsoft wants to make a positive name change at the company, it should strike the ‘7’ from ‘Windows Phone 7.’ That would actually be useful.
Leave Zune alone, Microsoft, it’s fine the way it is. Heck, it’s actually very good. You have spent so much time on it, so much money, so many developer hours, that it would be a pity to tear down the building you crafted piece by piece and give it all away.
Every current element of Zune is quality. The mobile app, the desktop software, and the hardware are all top flight. Why would you push it down the well?