Rumors have been circulating pretty much since the launch of the original iPhone over a year ago about a potential Zune phone competitor, though nothing substantial has materialized. The rumors got a bit closer to reality today with a "totally unconfirmed," yet reliable source that stated that Microsoft is indeed going ahead with a production Zune phone. Of course, take this one with a grain of salt.
A source had information about a meeting this week in Redmond that was focused around planning a Zune-based phone to compete with the iPhone. According to the information, the Zune phone will be based on a specialized variant of Windows Mobile 7 and key functionality will be centered around Windows Live Services. In regards to hardware, the so-called "ZunePhone" would sport the ever-popular touch-screen, no surprise there, but other than that, details were of course limited, according to jkOnTheRun. It was noted; "This is definitely to be considered a rumor until Microsoft is forthcoming about the ZunePhone, but this sounded credible to us and worth sharing."
It’s interesting to note that this comes on the day Microsoft announced a major "shakeup" happening within the company. In a long memo to Microsoft employees, Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying; "We’re changing the way we work with hardware vendors to ensure that we can provide complete experiences with absolutely no compromises. We’ll do the same with phones—providing choice as we work to create great end-to-end experiences." In other words Ballmer wrote a whole paragraph comparing Microsoft’s way of doing things, with choices, versus Apple’s way, which is more end-to-end.
The meeting held in Redmond this week was apparently the first one at Microsoft that included all of the various divisions in attendance that could make the phone a real product. Whether you believe it or not, Microsoft has all of the proper affiliations with phone manufacturers and carriers around the world to make it a reality if it were true.
I think, at some point, Microsoft will make its entrance into the smartphone market, whether it’s with a ZunePhone or not. They almost have to to fill the void in their consumer electronic lineup to compete, or they’ll miss out on another huge opportunity much like they did when dragging their feet in the online marketing game. Microsoft won’t let Apple be the Google that dominates the smartphone market like it did with online advertising.
Whatever the case may be, and which ever route the rumors take, it should still be interesting to see what Microsoft will come up with. Let’s just hope it does a better job at competing with the iPhone than it did competing with iPod.