Microsoft?s iPod: In the Zune


There has been great speculation about Microsoft, and handheld gaming devices. Today’s news of the Zune music-player only leads to further speculation on the subject.

On January 26th, BusinessWeek ran a piece, discussing Microsoft’s game-based iPod-killer. In the article, Peter Moore said any Microsoft media device would have to leverage the company’s most significant consumer strength, video gaming. “It can’t just be our version of the iPod.” In the piece, Moore would not confirm that Microsoft is considering making such a device.

When asked about it, Microsoft’s PR called the BusinessWeek piece highly speculative. At the DICE Summit in February, Moore gave a speech. During the Q&A, San-Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi specifically inquired about it. Moore replied, “As you know, Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation.”

Also at the DICE Summit, a Microsoft representative told the News Room that icons such as Robbie Bach and J Allard would begin to step back from the spotlight, while Peter Moore would become the face of Microsoft Gaming, and that Allard was going to focus on music.

Takahashi, a veteran technology reporter, has been following Microsoft, and Xbox from the start, going so far as to write two definitive books on the subject. On March 20th, he posted to his news blog about “Microsoft’s Plans For Handheld Game Player And ‘iPod Killer.'”

His post contained information gathered while writing The Xbox 360 Uncloaked, including news Microsoft considered an ‘Xboy’ device, but had shelved the plans. But by March, infrastructure and engineers were working on such a handheld device.

On July 6th, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft’s Allard and Bach were overseeing development of the company’s digital player. And while the report talked specifically about the music and video elements, it made no mention of gaming with the device.

On July 10th, the Seattle Times ran a column saying that the then named ‘Argo’ aimed guns at more than iPod. “What’s being developed is actually a complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products, including a device that plays media, a software media player and an online media service.”

And today, rumors broke that the device will be named Zune, and is a music and video only device. “If they’re really going to do it, I think the right approach is to take on the competitors one at a time,” Takahashi told the News Room.

“Going after the iPod and the PSP at the same time isn’t going to fly,” Takahashi adds, “The rumors that they have more than one portable in the works make sense.”

“If they do a handheld game device,” Takahashi concludes, “They need to tell developers far in advance. They haven’t started doing that so I believe that they will do it later.”

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