There are a ton of Zune websites that you can visit. You can find sites built around giving you the best wallpapers for your devices, communities that offer up applications for you to install. Earlier this year I began to doubt ZuneSpring’s reasons for existing. How could we compete against all of these specialty sites? What could I do to stand out from the pack? Finally it dawned on me how silly my thinking was. We don’t need a gimmick or a sole purpose for existing. We cover the news, we have a forum, but what we are really known for is in-depth coverage of the issues and politics surrounding Zune. However, Zune isn’t just about the way I see things. It’s about the way the users interact with the product. It’s about the facts and opinions as other Zune users, Microsoft fans, and more importantly you see them. It’s important to hear what the community has to say. Welcome to Straight Talk.
A week ago, I asked for opinions on how Zune would effect the platforms it has started to be combined with. Here’s what Mark Briggeman and Remo Knops of MobilityMinded.com has to say.
Over the past year Zune has finally diversified its portfolio, spreading onto everything from XBOX 360 to the short-lived KIN devices, and now, Windows Phone. We’ve all heard about the importance of Microsoft finally making a credible attempt to take back market share in the mobile space, and much to my amazement Zune is integrated into the platform at its very core. While I’ve covered Zune for ages, Windows Phone is a different beast entirely. The modern business man, and socialite want much more from their mobile devices. That got me to thinking about what adding the Zune experience does to Windows Phone 7, how does Zune make it a more compelling product, then its predecessors?
Mark Briggeman: People will recognize the same experience they have on their Zunes right on their Windows Phone and together with the services they are already used to, it makes a real nice overall experience.
Remo Knops: End users can now enjoy the value that Zune delivers, on different devices, in line with the three screens and a cloud strategy of Microsoft. With the phone being the most personal “computer” nowadays it makes sense to include Zune on Windows Phone 7, since the Zune experience (music, apps, marketplace, social) reflects the personal style of someone.
How does Zune make Windows Phone 7 a more compelling product then its competition?
Mark Briggeman: From my point of view, integrating Zune services in a Windows Phone 7 phone is a big step forward. Zune services will give you everything you are used to on your phone. No more carrying around with two devices.
Remo Knops: Previous Windows Mobile versions used a mobile version of Windows Media Player, which was ok. However if you offer Zune devices (+ the software and services) I can see the synergy and between both the product families. Especially the service offering like the marketplace and Zune social add value to Windows Phone 7 (compared to Windows Media Player).
A lot has been made about how both platforms’ UI look nearly identical in most areas, as a new MVP these changes must have been made you a little uneasy at some point?
Mark Briggeman: The UI is nearly identical, but it has been proved that it is well thought-out and works well for Zune, so why not use it for Windows Phone ? I don’t feel uneasy by this, only the question arises, what to to do with all those Zune MVP’s?
Remo Knops: Windows Phone 7 is the first version of Microsoft’s Mobile Operating System that abandons the desktop/pc paradigm. Of course it is different, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge opportunity for the mobile ecosystem. I would like to point to “the drawer of broken dreams” in the interview with Charlie Kindel @ DevDays 2010 or Charlie’s blogpost “Different Means Better with the new Windows Phone Developer Experience”
There are different strengths that you need to play to in the mobile phone market and the dedicated media player market yet there are also things that are universal. How do you think the markets differ? In what ways do you think they are similar?
Mark Briggeman: Like Remo says, for us it is hard to find differences or similarities because we can only buy Zunes from grey markets. But looking at Apple, they managed to put a “light” version of their iPod software in iPhones. A lot of functions are left out. Windows Phone will give a full experience of Zune and Zune services. I hope.
Remo Knops: The smartphone market is probably larger, and has the biggest opportunities for growth. Windows Phone is one of the three strategic pillars of Microsoft’s overall strategy, which shows their commitment to Windows Phone. You simply can’t sum up a set of general similarities or differences, since you can’t generalize parameters that result from the geographical location. In the Netherlands for example it is not possible to buy a Zune in the stores.
Finally, it’s no secret that the Zune HD hasn’t gone gang busters on store shelves, and Zune Marketplace hasn’t seen a large uptick in users. Being that Windows Phone 7 must use the Zune software to sync photos, and arrives with Zune integrated into its Music + Video hub; do you think we can expect more adopters of Zune services?
Mark Briggeman: While I do not own a Zune, I know it fairly well and played with it several times and I know one aspect of this device and why it has not been so popular like the iPod. Looking at the current situation, almost every carmaker offers a cable or connector to connect your iPod to the car stereo. In my car there is 100% integration with playlists and titles on the main screen. I cannot think of one European carmaker that offers a Zune cable or connector for their cars. Therefore I hope that Windows Phone 7 with Zune capabilities is giving us more options to enjoy music and video in the car or at home.
Remo Knops: While I have been fortunate to own a Zune HD 32GB, I can’t enjoy the full Zune experience (Zune Pass) outside the USA. The great advantage of Windows Phone 7 rolled out globally is a wider market for Zune and its service offerings. It is good to see some competition in the Netherlands for the Apple iPod products.
Moving on to Windows Phone in general, this time around Microsoft has elected to make its mobile OS more consumer friendly, do you feel that’s a wise move to make? What do you feel are the cons to appealing to business users as opposed to consumers?
Mark Briggeman: The positive side of this is that Microsoft still keeps developing on the Windows Phone 6.5.x platform. To position this as the “business” platform, you can support the business users, although I think that a lot of these users will take the plunge and move over to Windows Phone 7.
Remo Knops: I’m not really sure if you still need to continue the discussion about business use vs. consumer use. Most people aren’t walking around with two phones. What Microsoft aims at is one phone that supports both business scenario’s as well as consumer scenario’s (which is reflected in the hubs). Exchange support and the Office hub are more for professional use, while the Zune and Xbox experience are more consumer-oriented.
What are the major things that consumers and members of the community should be excited for? Are the some things that you championed that made it in?
Mark Briggeman: I think the Xbox Live hub will be a huge hit. Also the Zune integration is a much welcomed feature. Windows Phone 7 gives you the option to use it the way you want to. There is no “business” phone or “consumer” phone. It’s your phone and you can use it for your daily business tasks and for some recreation like playing a Xbox game on it.
Remo Knops: One very cool experience is the Xbox Live hub in Windows Phone 7. You might remember the demo of Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Windows Phone, during MIX 2010, where he showed a game called “The Harvest”. This was a full 3D action game, providing the full Xbox Live experience (earning points etc.). That highly impressed me and illustrated the power and performance of a Windows Phone 7 device. Another feature that I really like is the support of multiple exchange accounts, so I can connect with my personal- and university exchange account.
What are some major things besides ‘cut, copy & paste’ and ‘multitasking’, that you think should have made it in?
Mark Briggeman: At least some more connectivity. Now you can only install apps from the Marketplace and that’s it. No ActiveSync or WMDC, only Marketplace. There are a lot of users who need to get used to this. I would like to let my phone do all the work and now for instance, when I hard-reset my phone, after startup all my data is back and email accounts have been created. With Windows Phone 7 there is no more “tweaking” possible. You are dependent on what others create.
Remo Knops: I personally think a disk drive mode, like I’m used from the HTC HD2 or the great internet sharing functionality are features that I hope to see in the upcoming Windows Phone 7 release(s). Furthermore I hope to see a mobile Windows Live Sync client come to Windows Phone 7. On the other hand it is not easy to deal with the impressive legacy of Windows Mobile history.
While I personally feel that Zune and XBOX integration are the highlights of Windows Phone 7, there’s also the new ‘Hubs’, areas on the phone dedicated to helping you thinking about what you want to do instead of what app you need to use. Do you think this will change the way consumers interact with their Mobile devices? Are the days of having to think about individual apps nearly over?
Mark Briggeman: The answer is yes. Although there are a lot of restrictions, people are going to like it. It definitely changes the way people are going to use their phone. The hubs give you what you need at a glance. On the other end do people who want to enjoy the full experience, need to have accounts on social networks and own a Xbox and some connected friends, but when you have meet these criteria, it should be an awesome experience.
Remo Knops: What I really like about Windows Phone 7 are the underlying concepts of aggregating information from different “places” on the device. You don’t need to remember phone numbers, e-mail addresses or facebook credentials. You simply remember people. The Xbox Live experience provides a huge opportunity to connect the gaming market with the smartphone market. Microsoft will be the only player who owns the experience from the Xbox end to the Windows Phone end. The answer probably is yes.
You run a very successful Windows Phone site, MobilityMinded.com, in fact you’ve received a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award two years running. How has being an MVP enhanced your understanding on Windows Phone, and to a much greater extent your interactions with the Windows Phone community?
Mark Briggeman: Being an MVP gave me a lot more insight in the whole process from development to test and acceptation. Although certain decisions are made and clearly not understood by the public, I know why they have been made and can understand that, although I do not agree with some of them. Apart from this, the interaction with the Product Groups gave me a lot more information and it is nice to be heard if you have any concerns. I got to know a lot of people during last Summit and made a lot of new friends and hope next Summit will be even better !
Remo Knops: The interaction with Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals and more technical deep dive sessions enhance the deeper knowledge of the mobile operating system, its architecture and its features.
“MobilityMinded aims to be(come) a true strategic partner in mobility for end-users, manufacturers, providers and developers, but foremost to the readers and contributors to the MobilityMinded website.”
I’m not a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional but fortunate to be part of the Möbius group. However luckily I know a lot of Windows Phone MVP’s. The interaction with Möbius members & Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, combined with more technical deep dive sessions enhances the deeper knowledge of the mobile operating system, its architecture and its features.
Thanks to both Mark and Remo for taking the time to explain their views on Zune’s Windows Phone integration. If you too would like to sound off, don’t forget to do so in the comments. Not only would I appreciate the feedback, but it would also help me gauge interest in continuing efforts like this on the site.