That could be true, if what we’re hearing about the buzz within Microsoft these days is correct. The Zune for all intents and purposes has been anything but a success for Microsoft. Redmond saw that Apple was wildly successful in controlling the experience from the top down, and decided to try to duplicate it.
In the process it all but abandoned its partners, casting PlaysForSure aside in favor of its own single store proprietary system a la Apple’s. The change all but meant certain death for just about every store that wasn’t either the Zune MarketPlace or iTunes, and most device manufacturers.
Fast forward to today. We’re now nearly three years out from Microsoft’s initial launch, and the company has very little to show for it. iPods still outsell Zunes by a 20-to-1 (or more) margin, roughly the same as it was at launch.
So what is Microsoft to do? According to our sources, the company is currently discussing marketing strategies going forward. But the most interesting aspect of this talk is that Redmond is apparently sharing information with key partners for the first time in the platform’s short history.
This would mark a definite change in strategy, and possibly indicates that Microsoft is finally admitting that the Zune platform in its current form is not working, and certainly not sustainable from a profitability aspect.
What information is being shared is not clear. But considering the time for refresh has typically been in the late summer-early fall time frame, if Microsoft is indeed going back to its partners, now would be the time to start talking.
Another possibility is that Microsoft may be pushing around an iPod+HP-like setup, although I would venture to guess manufacturers would likely be given more leeway in control over the product rather than just slapping their own logo on the thing.
My advice to Microsoft is to make nice with the partners you for all intents and purposes screwed over when you made the switch to Zune. You tried to go it alone, but it didn’t work. If you want to stay serious about the music device business, you need their help.
After all, the door is all but closing, and the iPod’s dominance shows no signs of fading. Anything but has become merely an imitator. If Microsoft doesn’t figure this out soon, it may find itself chasing a wild goose.