Steve Ballmer was interviewed today by CIO magazine and the Zune came up, more or less in the context of “What the devil were you thinking?” In the process of answering, Mr. Ballmer made clear to me at least that for all the attacks and mockery he gets in the blogs and tech sites, he really does GET it.
CIO: Why has Microsoft developed Zune?
Ballmer: At the end of the day, one of the big trends is that all content is going digital. And if we don’t have the software and services that are useful, helpful and valuable for the consumption of music and video, we are sort of not really a player.
Now, we built the Zune hardware with the Zune software – and what you’ll see more and more over time is that the Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices, etc.
CIO: It seems to me to be a tricky one because Apple is out there, and they have a pretty good product – but also they have this kind of cult following of people who are just going to buy, because it’s Apple. That must be a frustrating thing to compete against.
Ballmer: They may have a cult following in the music business, and we got about 97 percent of PC users using our stuff. 97 percent may not constitute a cult! But I wouldn’t trade that for a cult!
Zune on mobile devices other then the Zune player itself? Hopefully this means that we will soon see the end of Windows Media Player on mobile devices, and have Zune software build into Windows Mobile. Imagine being able to sync media and music on your phone using Zune.
I think I understand now that Microsoft is viewing Zune not as an iPod competitor, but as an iTunes competitor…perhaps with an eye towards unifying the media experience across all Microsoft products using Zune. I think that would be an excellent plan and hopefully will bear fruit in the near future, perhaps as soon as in the increasingly modular Windows 7, and WM 7.