People have been clamoring for a Zune phone since the Zune shipped a few years ago. Microsoft has made vague references to some kind of Zune interface or Zune services on a phone. Yesterday Microsoft released an upgrade to the Zune desktop software and with it came a confirmation that a phone of some sort is in the works.Long Zheng at the IStartedSomething
blog wasn't content to install the update, sync his Zune and go on about his business. He delved into some of the files to see if there was anything interesting to find. If you have the upgrade, you can see this for yourself. The data is in the Zune.inf file, which is at C:\Program Files\Zune\Drivers\Zune\ on my PC. If you scroll down to the Microsoft.NTx86 and Microsoft.NTamd64 sections, you'll notice a new device listed called a "Phone.Device." If you don't have the Zune software, you can see a screen shot of the file at the IStartedSomething blog post.
But wait - there's more! Long Zheng noticed that the hardware IDs in the file belong to Microsoft, meaning, like the Zune itself, the phone device will be made by Microsoft. You probably remember the tiff between Apple and Palm when Palm was violating the USB Implementors Forum
terms by using Apple's ID to make the Palm Pre appear as an iPod. Microsoft ID's means a Microsoft device.
The Zune interface simply rocks as a music player and is infinitely better than Windows Media Player is on Windows Mobile. If you listen to music at your desk but don't have an MP3 player, the Zune desktop software still makes a worthy replacement to Windows Media Player there as well.
The Windows Mobile interface could also benefit from the smoothness of the Zune interface. I've had a Zune for a little over a year and a ZuneHD for a few months and neither device ever shows the slightest bit of stuttering when moving around. I am not sure if that is the Zune interface or that Microsoft ensured that the Zune hardware could handle the OS. Microsoft gets to do that when it owns the hardware. With WinMo devices, Microsoft makes recommendations, but manufacturers and carriers are known to cut corners to save cost. I'd be shocked if a Microsoft built phone wasn't sufficiently powered to handle anything Windows Mobile is capable of with Zune-like smoothness.
Maybe we'll find out more at Mobile World Congress next month.