I’m not sure if this is the direction they are going, but I am starting to wonder exactly how open ended the Zune brand is going to be. We have already seen that Microsoft is keeping Zune pretty well isolated from the Windows brand, and even from the Microsoft brand.
I wonder if Microsoft might be manufacturing a schism between their business productivity OS (Windows), and their ideal of being the personal media hub in people’s homes and in people’s hands. Keeping up with the business aspects of Windows has somewhat hobbled Microsoft’s media hub efforts. By trying to be all things to all people, there are certain market segments that Microsoft is losing its grasp on.
If Zune takes off, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Zune Desktop/Media Center (hopefully with a better name than ‘Media Center’), and maybe even a Zune Home Media Server. By cannibalizing the home user market share that Windows currently holds, Microsoft would be in a better position to defend against Apple, Linux, and others… It would be much better for Microsoft to lose this marketshare to itself rather than to a competitor.
What would this allow? I could have a Zune Umpc/Origami device, Zune Media Center, and Zune Handheld/Phone, all syncing my personal information and media seamlessly and giving me a rich experience free from all the overhead of a general purpose business PC. The Zune platform would focus on: web, email, video, audio, blogging, podcasting, video, and social networking. This would also allow each OS to be tailored to specific usage scenarios that are wildly different, giving business users more of what they need in Windows, and giving consumers more of what they want under the Zune brand.
Didn’t they do this before? Microsoft used to have two codebases. With Windows XP, they ditched the older DOS/Win95/98/ME codebase, and brought the consumer OS’s in line with the NT codebase. This brought a a lot of efficiencies since the Windows team no longer had to worry about maintaining two very different codebases, but it also saddled the Consumer OS with all of the burdens of the Business OS, including strict backwards compatibility, corporate manageability, and a seemingly infinite hardware ecosystem. Just like the X-box borrowed from the Windows codebase, the Zune brand extensions could do the same (Hmmm. Aren’t the X-Box folks behind this whole Zune thing?)
Making use of existing mature code where appropriate, and leaving behind the things that don’t make sense could bring an awesome experience to consumers. Basically Microsoft would be taking advantage of all of their intellectual property, and all of the lessons they learned building NT for businesses and building X-Box for gamers, and they would be applying that to solving the consumer scenario.