Tonight Jon and I recorded TDL Mobile Show 78 (
not available yet) and at the end I put forward my predictions that the next update for Windows Phone, codenamed “Mango”, could be the first sign of the predicted killing of the Zune brand (Will Microsoft Kill The Zune Brand?). Windows Phone calls the media hub “Music and Videos” in both the list of applications and when you pin it to the home screen. The only reference to “Zune” is when the hub opens but this could easily change with the “Mango” update.
I started thinking about this on the way home after an exchange on twitter and the recent announcement of a web based marketplace (New behind-the-scenes videos and more on Marketplace) for Windows Phone applications. Microsoft recently announced that podcast support will be built into “Mango” so you can subscribe and download episodes without using the Zune desktop software.
This means that the only remaining reasons for using the Zune software is to install updates, Chris Walsh (blog | twitter) has already proved that can be done without Zune, and also synchronising local music, pictures, and videos. Assuming updates can be installed through a stand-alone application then that just leaves personal media keeping the Zune desktop client alive.
Amazon launched and Google announced cloud music storage so that you can upload tracks you already own to the cloud where they can be accessed from anywhere. It makes sense that Microsoft will want to compete here and they already have SkyDrive in place so why not let Windows Phone devices synchronise media directly from the Music, Pictures and Videos stored in the relevant SkyDrive folders? I should add that Windows Phone already synchronises pictures stored on SkyDrive so it’s only music and video that need adding.
Microsoft already have a great silverlight based solution for streaming media built into Windows Home Server 2011 so why not replicate that within SkyDrive? They have already started talking about giving SkyDrive a HTML5 overhaul (Microsoft reveals HTML5 overhaul of Windows Live SkyDrive) and with the new IE9 pinned sites it would easily work as a replacement for desktop media software like Zune or Windows Media Player.
Windows Phone already has a great media interface, perfected first on the Zune music devices, and I’d imagine that a scaled up version will be part of the bundled applications for the slate UI rumoured to be coming with Windows 8, so why have yet another interface for the standard point-and-click desktop? If silverlight does indeed come to the Xbox 360 then that same interface used via a browser on the desktop could be replicated and would be easily controlled using Kinect. They could also wrap the Zune Pass inside an Xbox Live Gold subscriptions which would really shake up the all-you-can-eat music subscription market.
A wildcard in this is Windows Media Center which could become the standard desktop application for playing media which would help introduce that “Metro UI” based application to a wider audience and possibly help the uptake of the new embedded Media Center set-top-boxes. That interface is already designed for touch so would work on the desktop and tablet devices and would again make a dedicated Zune desktop client redundant.
So what do you think, could this be the end of the road for the Zune desktop software and if so does that also mean the end for Zune as a brand?