Microsoft and music

When it comes to music Microsoft are the undesputed champions of having a completely messed up strategy. On Windows they have Windows Media Player and Zune, on Xbox they have a section called music, something else called Zune that’s not quite the same as Zune on the Pc, they had a portable device called Zune and a subscription service called Zune pass. The one brand that is potentially getting the chop is also called Zune!

We’ve known for a while that a successor is in the works for Zune (although which Zune that means isn’t 100% clear), so what could this end up being? Well here’s what im hoping for…


The original Xbox was the first to introduce music storage but sadly that part of the Xbox has never seen an update since. Apps like Zune have been added with streaming abilities and improved UI, but they are separate and there remains no way to sync your music from PC to Xbox.

Id like to see that changed, my Xbox and pc should be able to talk to each other and move mp3’s from one to the other. Better yet link into my Windows live Id and offer a service like iTunes match! The UI updates and Kinect integration that the Zune app has should also be included making one ultimate music experience.

Rebrand the Zune app as marketplace and add the ability to actually purchase music! Or download songs if the user has a Zune pass, similar to how marketplace on WP7 works.

Windows Phone

So far Windows Phone is actually doing a good job. It has a music hub simply called music & video with a clear distinction of what a Zune pass adds to it. But getting music on the device still requires linking to my pc or buying on the phone. Also if a buy on the phone I can’t then download again on ny pc, so if my phone breaks in between purchasing and the next sync (which could be months) I’ve lost my music.

Again a windows live id sync here would be perfect, but also how about a sync with Xbox. A lot of families have one family computer but the kids often have an Xbox. Why does the pc have to be the main device? Why can’t Xbox be at the centre of my music storage? Xbox after all should now just be a PC optimised for TV.

Windows 8

From what I’ve seen so far Windows 8 looks like it has a new simple app just called music. Give this the same Zune pass integration as WP7 and syncing features listed above and I think Microsoft will be onto a music strategy that gets my music everywhere in a simple way.

The message is simple. Don’t think up stupid names and then refer to everything as that name. Think of individual devices and services. On a device just call the app music as that’s what it is. And make everything sync. Make managing music everywhere easy, add on any device and play on any other.

Xbox music, oh no

So around a month ago Microsoft announced that Windows Live ID was going to be rebranded as Microsoft Account. The reason was people didn’t understand what Windows Live was. In the beginning Windows Live was the name for Microsofts online services, however at some point they started using the name for everything like Windows Live Gallery and Movie maker, 2 windows programs that actually have nothing to do with Windows Live at all. So the name is being killed off and replaced with Microsoft account, something that makes a lot of sense.

Now a month later Microsoft have made another announcement, on there strategy to make the Xbox 360 the centre of all your media they are launching Xbox music. Also to come later in the year is Xbox videos, both of which are just rebranding of Zune. Windows 8 will also feature Xbox music and video apps along with the games app. So after all that good work at fixing the mess of Windows live they go and start to destroy Xbox.

2 major things jump out at me with this:

First how do you open the app with xbox’s voice controls, currently you prefix everything with Xbox, as Xbox now means the actual box. Saying “Xbox music” currently takes you to the music page, so then to choose the app do you say “Xbox Xbox music”?

Second one of the features of windows phone 7 is that it is the only phone with Xbox. But now if they are completely disassociating Xbox as a stand alone name to mean games shouldn’t that tile be changed?

I can’t help but also think this is a repeat of Zunes bad naming. Here’s a list of things called Zune:

Zune – the name of a series of mp3 players
Zune – software on windows
Zune pass – subscription music service
Zune – software on Xbox to use the Zune pass on Xbox
Zune videos – software on Xbox to buy videos

With the Zune devices dead the brand was getting a bit easier to understand, and to anyone outside the US it was only ever related to the software. I’m sad to see it go as to me the name Zune separated the subscription music service from all devices and made it the name of what it is.

But alas Microsoft want to stop using the name due to the failed devices, but couldn’t they have just called the music service music and left Xbox as just the name of the actual box?