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From Plan Apple to Plan Zune for Microsoft…

an image of the Microsoft logoAs if written as some contrived plot for an off-beat IT Sci-Fi series, news emerges that Microsoft considered doing a deal with Apple and the iPod.

“A senior Microsoft executive was so frustrated by his experience with digital music players made by global partners that he proposed turning to Apple’s iPod for salvation, documents made public as part of an Iowa antitrust case reveal.”

Jim Allchin, the outgoing head of the Microsoft division in charge of Windows was most damning in his assessment of the various efforts of their partners in an email to Amir Majidimehr, the current head of Microsoft’s consumer media technology group:

“I think I should talk with Jobs. Right now, I think I should open up a dialogue for support of the iPod. Unless something changes, the iPod will drive people away from WMP [Windows Media Player],…”

To which Majidimehr replied:

“Tomorrow we have an entire crew descending on Creative and after that Samsung and Rio to get them motivated to build the ‘right’ device,… We are putting incentives on the table in the form of cash, technical support, direct interface to developers, early access code for Windows Media Player 9.1 etc. In other words, we are going all out and hoping that at least a few of them will listen. If none do then it is time for us to roll-up our sleeves and do our own hardware.”

And guess what? Microsoft went for Plan B .. and guess what? The Zune is no better than what they were faffing around with in 2003.

On second thoughts, shouldn’t Plan B be Plan Z?

And just when Plan A sounded so much better. I wonder what the A stood for?

Okay, okay, I know I’m being unfair here. Let’s face it, Microsoft has done really, really well with the Xbox, probably a lot better than they’d hoped for. So I imagine Microsoft felt that they could emulate this success with the Zune.

However, that’s not how things have panned out, certainly not for the first incarnation. Over the long term, Microsoft will be looking long and hard at their broader entertainment strategy, and the Zune will evolve and possibly improve over time.


And, with the huge cash reserves Microsoft has at their disposal, they can afford to make a few more mistakes than their competitors. But not too many…

Related news: Microsoft emails reveal Tiger envy

“A series of emails between Microsoft developers in June 2004 has revealed how impressed they were by the new Tiger operating system that Apple had just previewed.

The emails focus primarily on Tiger’s Spotlight search feature, and how far it was in advance of similar functionality in Microsoft’s Vista/Longhorn OS.

‘Tonight I got on corpnet, hooked up to my Exchange server and then downloaded all of my mail into the local file store,’ wrote Microsoft’s Lenn Pryor, former Director of Platform Evangelism. ‘I did system wide queries against docs, contacts, apps, photos, music, and … my Microsoft email on a Mac. It was f***ing amazing. It is like I just got a free pass to Longhorn land today.’”

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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