Well, it seems the rumors of a Zune Phone are coming true. This article link explains that a Microsoft Zune Phone prototype may appear at the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month. As I’ve said earlier, this makes perfect sense since Microsoft seems to be chasing whatever the latest and hotest technology is available. It seems that people want devices like the Apple iPhone, so Google comes out with the Android OS and Microsoft is running to compete in this arena.
Of course, Microsoft already has a phone OS (Windows Mobile) which has been used for the last few years in several different phone devices. So, why is Microsoft looking to create a “Zune” phone (presumably, using an OS similar to what is controlling the Zune devices)? In my opinion, the Windows Mobile OS is too “Microsoft Windows”-like with the dropdown (or up) menus, dialog boxes and controls, etc. It’s like squeezing Microsoft Windows into a mobile phone device, and I don’t think such an OS is very efficient for a phone. Also, I believe consumers are tired of Windows, and want something fresh, snappy, and new to drive their phones (e.g., the iPhone OS). The Zune OS is so unlike Microsoft Windows, that consumers are willing to buy and use Zune devices over other MP3 players (including the iPod).
Being a long time Windows (and Windows Mobile) application developer, it will be interesting to see what OS and development environment will appear for the new Microsoft Zune phone. Currently, the only development environment available for the Zune OS is XNA Studio which is basically a game programming SDK. As such, there are limits on the types of applications you can develop. For example, you can’t create email apps or internet apps (even though the Zune is WiFi capable). If Microsoft chooses to use a similar OS for the Zune phones, that may limit what developers can create so far as useful apps. In which case, the Zune phone is doomed for failure if it doesn’t have apps like those available for the iPhone and T-Mobile G1 (Google) phone.
Also, the question arises: who is the target user for the Zune phone? Is it for the general consumer or for business users? Personally, I think the Zune phone will be for general consumers (i.e., young adults, students, etc.) rather than for business users, since that seems to be the market for the Google G1 phone. As such, you may not have email capability (and certainly not Microsoft Exchange Server connectivity). There may be a minimal web browser, but I think the phone functionality will come second to the basic Zune (music) functionality.
I won’t hold my breath, but I hope the Zune Phone can compete (and or beat) the Apple iPhone in design and functionality and have good tools for developing good applications. So, we’ll have to wait and see what is revealed on January 7th…
UPDATE: According to www.gizmodo.com, there WON’T be a Zune Phone in the works, but maybe something called “Pink”? So, who knows what’s going on?!!!