With the release of the Zune HD just around the corner, stories about Microsoft’s efforts in the MP3 market are showing up all over the mainstream press, just as they did when the Zune 80 and 120 were released last year. This time however, along with the conventional wisdom mocking the Zune, there is a strange undercurrent of admiration for Microsoft.
Of course every story harps on the standard script that there are 450 trillion iPods sold every day and that the Zune has no chance of even being a shadow of an irritation for Steve Jobs and mighty Apple in the digital music market. In addition to that, many of the stories have been trotting out the same unnamed “Third Party iPod Application Developer” to say the equivalent of “Whoa, dude, like this guy from Microsoft asked me like to port my stuff for the Zune and offered me like a kajillion dollars, but Dude I said NO WAY! Can I meet Steve Jobs now?”
However, under all that is a new tone that makes it seem that people are beginning to admire Microsoft’s somewhat quixotic battle to make a dent in the MP3 player market, and the Zune technology is even finally getting the positive reviews it deserves, building on the successes of the Zune 3.0 update. For example, take a look at this from a Business Week piece published today…
Microsoft’s dogged pursuit of success with Zune is a classic example of the company’s willingness to keep investing in markets it sees as strategically important, even if early attempts to capture share fall short. Microsoft kept improving its Windows operating system for servers, SQL Server database, and Web search engine for years before having respectable products in those markets. Same goes for Zune, according to Microsoft. "When Zune was born, it was looked at as at least a seven-year project," says Seitz.
The project may pay dividends beyond the actual device. Microsoft considers Zune important to its foray into handheld computer games and other mobile software. It envisions an Internet-based Zune service that can deliver entertainment content to a wide range of devices, including those that don’t bear Microsoft’s logo.
Reading that, it sounds like the author feels that Microsoft’s persistence with the Zune is actually admirable. Perhaps people are beginning to notice that as Apple makes their iTunes system more and more closed and proprietary, Microsoft is talking about opening up the Zune system to a variety of devices and vendors. By this time next year, not only will we have the Zune HD but hopefully Zune software running on other devices as well as a key part of Windows 7 and Windows Phone.