Looking forward to a Zune Desktop

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.

2 thoughts on “Looking forward to a Zune Desktop”

  1. No no no! I can see the motivation for making "Home" and "Pro" editions of windows more dramatically different (perhaps strip the new games explorer from "pro" and make games / media stuff more prominant in "home") but essentially abandoning Windows for Zune would be suicide.
    Windows as a brand has massive recognition, (how many times have I or others had to describe Linux as being "another OS, like Windows only different.") A lot of people expect Windows to be powering their computer and leaving that behind would cause confusion.
    Not to mention that a large amount of the windows traction at home comes from the fact people use windows at work, and are familiar with it. Even if your "Zune Desktop" is just a re-shelled version of windows you’re going to confuse users and weaken the brand.
    On a side note you’ll notice no doubt that Microsoft have kept the XBox brand well away from the word microsoft, and with Live, and Vista they seem to be stripping out Microsoft from all over the place.

  2. Tom,
    I get a lot of what you are saying, and I see a lot of brand benefit from keeping Windows intact, but I also look at how 90% of the population uses computers at home and I wonder if keeping Windows for the consumer is really the best way to go. For a lot of folks, computers are just a gateway to email and the web. Personal media and information storage are things that keeps me from being on-board with the "thin-client" crowd.
    Microsoft has tried something along these lines a couple times in the past with WebTV, and MSN TV. While those devices never really took off, I think there’s a market for these appliance type devices if they capture enough of the consumer usage scenario.
    It would be a very gutsy move if Microsoft were to decide to cannibalize some of their Windows market share this way, and I wouldn’t think it would be a smart move unless they were pretty certain that they had to do it to avoid losing market share to their competitors. Apple is making some pretty compelling plays at moving into the living room as a digital hub. If Apple comes out with a "it just works" media hub, and Microsoft doesn’t have something ready to put head-to-head with it, Microsoft may find itself locked out of the living room. The iTV we have all heard about may be one spoke on that hub.
    Like I said above, I agree with a lot of your comments, this is just a crazy idea I had last night that I wanted to put out on the web.
    Another angle could be that the Zune Desktop shouldn’t be seen as replacing Home Edition, but rather as an alternative for folks that don’t really use all the capabilities of a Windows PC. And the Zune Desktop would have to really live up to the ideas of seamless integration, syncronization & true plug and play.
    Thanks for your comments!
    Rick H.

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