Microsoft is going full-bore when it comes to the Zune HD, due out in stores September 15. Redmond apparently believes so much in the product that it is willing to axe the entire line to focus on the device, if reports from Paul Thurrott are to be believed.
Now Mr. Thurrott does not necessarily have the best track record in being accurate in predicting or reporting future Microsoft moves, but if he’s actually talking to executives you have got to think they aren’t blowing smoke. If true, it’s a pretty gutsy move on Microsoft’s park to put all their eggs in one basket.
[UPDATE: Microsoft has now confirmed that the original Zunes are dead. See this PC World story.]
Even though Apple seems to be focusing on touch as of late, the company still carries an expansive line of models to suit users tastes. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work well in this market.
Apple’s Shuffles and Nanos work good for athletes — look no further than the Nike+ add-on for the Nano as evidence. For Microsoft, the Zune 8 fufilled this niche. With it gone, the company is forcing users to upgrade to the much larger (and about 2 1/2 times more expensive) touch-based model.
In Microsoft’s defense, we all shouldn’t forget though how much ground the Zune needs to make up. Even though this latest round of Zunes sold slightly better, there is still a 20-25:1 ratio of iPods sold to every Zune Microsoft is focusing its efforts where the market is going.
Regardless, a large portion of the market will be underserved. Many consumers prefer smaller and cheaper players (anecdotal evidence seems to indicate this may be a fairly large chunk of all players sold). I can understand Microsoft’s desire to focus on the Zune HD, but deciding to axe the rest of your product line before you have any alternatives seems way too risky for a platform that is hanging on by a thread so as it is.