Zune marks a significant change of direction for Microsoft. Traditionally Microsoft has supplied the operating system and the application to customers and has left it to partners and ISV’s to innovate.
The existing media partners are a good example of this. For example Napster. Microsoft produce the software platform, the Plays For Sure DRM, and Napster produced a store. Other partners produce the hardware, for example Creative.
The problem with this is that you get design by committee – worse the committee never meets! Each company puts their own spin on their part in the chain. The links between them can be a bit flaky to say the least.
Apple has made this problem acutely clear. They have produced a better overall experience because they own the entire product chain – the software platform, the store and the hardware – they make make the necessary changes to make the whole thing run smoothly.
This is what Microsoft has done with Zune – they are producing a new platform that they own from end to end.
Time will tell if this works for Microsoft. If it does then there are other markets where this model could work…
Windows Mobile has the same problem as Plays For Sure. The operating system software is Microsoft’s and it is tailored by the hardware manufacturers to suit their hardware. Then the networks make their own changes and deliver the service.
The are lots of fantastic features in these phones – but try and talk to the networks about them! They typically only care about minutes and texts. A few have recently started taking data tariffs seriously…
So what if Microsoft became an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator)? Then they could have the same power over the supply chain as Apple and Zune now have over the music space.
A mobile phone that work seamlessly with it’s network – ie it actually delivers on it’s promises could make a big difference.
Could this be the start of a new tactic for Microsoft? An end-to-end supplier.