Microsoft/Toshiba Zune

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
Rich Tehrani
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Microsoft/Toshiba Zune

Years ago I used to read and perhaps even wrote about the fact that Microsoft would not be successful in the mobile phone business because they can't make an OS that doesn't need frequent rebooting. Years ago this was a joke in the publishing industry. Fast forward to today -- I use a Microsoft-based phone and it is great. I can open PowerPoints and Acrobat documents with ease. I can see crisp graphics and do lots of other things I can do with my laptop.

But because it is a Microsoft device -- perhaps that is unfair but certainly Microsoft devices require more reboots than devices from any other company -- I need to reboot it all the time. It really is a major drawback on a device that is also the one I use for dialing 911.

On the bright side, one of the other things my phone does well is that it plays music as well as any other music player. It is great for music -- I can listen to songs and take phone calls without interrupting my music playing.

So I have been surprised why Microsoft hasn't been more successful in the music player business -- except for the reboot problem of course.

It seems that Steve Ballmer also agrees with me and as such they have partnered with Toshiba.

Marketed under Microsoft's Zune brand, the gadget will allow users to share songs, photos, music playlists and other content through a wireless connection. One of the gadget's features will enable a person to act as a DJ while sending music to up to four other devices.

Toshiba filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, indicating its plan to manufacture the device for Microsoft. This agreement was confirmed by a spokesman for Microsoft on Friday.

The success of the iPod and iTunes has breathed new life into Apple and the new alliance between Apple and Intel has further allowed Apple to gain share in the consumer electronics and PC market.

Microsoft needs to be concerned about Apple because the future of the computing space seems to be the merger between CE, the web and the computer. The leader in consumer electronics is going to have a tremendous advantage in the computing environment of the future.

And this offering from Microsoft and Toshiba doesn't impress me on the surface. The world has become iPod-enabled -- cars, accessories, FM transmitters, etc.

What are Microsoft and Toshiba bringing to the table? If it is a lower cost then Apple can drop prices to compete -- if that is even needed.

The only way Microsoft can even hope to compete is to lower the cost of purchasing songs and perhaps movies. They will need to take a financial hit today to increase share because the iPod/iTunes combo is a powerful combination.

Other than that, a battery breakthrough, a link to MySpace, some sort of messaging hook are the only other things I can think of that will allow Microsoft to get ahead of Apple.

From my perspective, iTunes/iPod, Google and open source are the biggest threats to Microsoft going forward. What is your opinion?


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