Microsoft took the wraps off its Zune multimedia player and service yesterday. The first device will just be able to play audio and video, but that’s just the start. The company has announced that it intends to release a Zune-branded phone at some point.
“A Zune phone is definitely part of the future of this brand,” Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune, told Reuters.
Stephenson did not give any details on when this device will be released, but the company’s statements seem to indicate it won’t be any time soon.
Also unknown is what features the Zune phone will offer. Microsoft has not revealed if this will be a simple “feature phone” that offers just voice service and access to the Zune service, or if it will be a more functional Windows Mobile smartphone with Zune support.
Up Against the iPhone?
Microsoft’s Zune is taking on Apple’s iPod/iTunes, the 800 lb. gorilla of the portable music player market. When the Zune phone is released it might have to compete with a similar device from Apple.
For many months, rumors have been circulating that Apple is going to release its own music-oriented phone. In fact, some thought the announcement of this so-called iPhone would come this week, but it didn’t happen.
If the rumors are correct, the iPod/phone combo will be out well before Microsoft’s version.