The Windows Phone 7 comes integrated with Zune which is a premium service that is available at a price of $14.99 a month. Now a free subscription to this paid service appears to be the perfect bait for companies to lure customers into buying handsets running Windows Phone 7. After Microsoft announced a 3 month free Zune pass subscription to users who shall pre-order a Windows Phone 7 handset, AT&T has now announced an additional one month of free Zune subscription. While the Microsoft offer is only valid on customers who pre-order a phone unit, the AT&T offer shall be valid on all Windows Phone 7 handsets purchased before the end of this year.
It looks like a perfect bait at least from the perspective of Microsoft. A good number of users who get access to this free service are likely to turn into long term Zune customers and a comprehensive free trial of Zune is a perfect way to lure these customers. What do you think?
With the launch of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 handsets imminent, the company is apparently getting ready to make associated software and tools available for all the major platforms available. Zune Software, which will now be the iTunes equivalent for Windows Phone 7 phones could soon be made available for the Mac platform. This comes from Oded Ran, a UK based Microsoft executive in charge of Windows Phone 7 marketing. In a tweet posted recently, Ran had written,
“DAILY #WP7 ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m glad to confirm that Mac users would be able to use Zune on their Macs to sync with #WP7. More details soon.”
Not surprisingly, the tweet got deleted soon after though it had gotten into the hands of several of his Twitter followers by then. But considering that Ran was actually “glad to confirm” this news indicates that an official announcement in this regard is not too long away.
Just as you would know, Microsoft is all set to announce the new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system in just an hour or two from now. Like with any other smartphone platform, all eyes are now on the application marketplace for Windows Phone to see how this would work vis-a-vis the iTunes App Store and Android Market.
Folks at Engadget have got hold of a few interesting pieces of information that will give users an idea about how the Windows Phone App Marketplace will work. First and foremost, Microsoft has already updated their Zune desktop software to version 4.7 today. The new version is capable of setting up new Windows Phone 7 handsets (the earliest ones are expected to come ten days from now in Europe). Users will need a Windows Live-ID to sign into the Zune software and apparently, only 86 apps are available on the marketplace at present. 2000 apps are expected to be up and running before the official launch happens. Out of these 86 apps, 22 are free and others cost between $0.99 and $6.99.
Basically, the Windows Phone app marketplace is pretty similar to an App Store except for one crucial difference. Microsoft appears to be offering an incentive to users who have their friends and family owning Windows Phone handsets as well. This is with the help of their App-Sharing feature. Essentially, users may use the same Windows-Live ID on as many as 5 different Windows phones to download the app on all these different handsets. What this means is users can pool in money from their friends who are on Windows Phone to share expensive applications and be able to download these apps to their individual handsets. This is definitely an intelligent strategy to not only help proliferate the adoption of the platform, but also encourage app developers to price their apps higher since their applications could now be shared by several users.
Microsoft has announced that their Zune media services are expanding into newer markets internationally. This will bring the Zune music, video and movie rental and subscription service to UK, Germany, Italy and Spain among a list of newer markets.
Speaking of functionality, the subscription service will not let users store any content locally. All media has to be streamed. People in the UK shall be paying £9 a month for access to the service whereas those in the rest of Europe shall shell out €10 monthly as subscription fee.
So what will you get at this fee? Here’s a rundown
Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.
Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).
Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere — on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.(9)
Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).
In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft may be working on a new hardware for its Zune HD. While the company has stayed mute on this subject, the rumors have all along indicated that Redmond may build one sequel to its Zune HD player before merging it with the emerging line of Windows Phone 7 products. So where are we getting the latest bit of information from? Well, a recent job opening at Microsoft is seeking applications from senior mechanical engineers who will join the team that built the original Zune HD to build “the next generation of portable entertainment and communication devices“.
Though this is all speculation, it will be interesting to see what Microsoft is planning to do with a hardware refresh. There are rumors that the company could incorporate the Windows Phone 7 platform to Zune HD to bring the device closer in utility to the iPod Touch and thereby make the product more attractive. That would really be terrific. Just that we still do not know if this is all going to be true.
Zune Pass – the Microsoft Zune subscription service that allows users to download an unlimited number of tracks during the subscription period as well as permanently retain up to ten music tracks a month is now possibly coming to the UK. A few users in the UK have noticed that they may now purchase a Zune Pass subscription from Zune.net although it is still not possible to stream music to the Zune PC software using a UK based Windows Live ID.
These are however likely to be ironed out once the subscription service becomes official in the UK – which is expected soon. For now, however, the subscription price is known. To begin with, users may sign up for a free 14-day trial period. Once the trial period is over, users may pick between two subscription periods – A 1 month pass is available at a price of £8.99 while the alternative 3 month subscription Zune Pass is available at a price of £26.97.
Is this price attractive enough?
Entertainment, it seems, is the next big area where the biggest of the technology giants shall be competing. Apple has, for a long time, enjoyed virtual monopoly in this segment with its iTunes service. However, that may not stay for a long time as we see Microsoft and Google gearing themselves up for the clash.
The modus operandi may not be the same for all the three companies, but we can say that all the three different strategies might work and time will tell how each of these companies will perform.
Apple’s iTunes needs no introduction. While Microsoft Zune may be an also-ran, the company’s latest announcement to launch an Bing entertainment service that will integrate the company’s search engine offering with its Zune music offering.
So, for instance, searching for “Songs by Lady Gaga” will show you this.
Quite clearly, the focus is on getting the users engage with content right on the website and go ahead and purchase the same from Zune. Bing enjoys integration with lyrics and music from a catalog of over 5 million songs. With a majority of users going online to look for music lyrics and purchases, this is definitely a market to tap.
Google did make some moves late last year with its Music OneBox (in association with Lala), but did not go much beyond. However, the company has made its intention clear to offer a full fledged music service soon. According to Scott Morrison from the Wall Street Journal, the company could be launching a music download service that is tied to the search engine later this year followed by an online subscription service in 2011. These are not lofty plans considering that rivals have already begun their implementation.
However, Microsoft can still go for the kill now. The company has at least a couple of months to position their search service as the destination to go for online music. If Bing does succeed in pulling online music seekers, then expect three major destinations for online music by the mid of next year.
A lot of consolidation may happen thereafter with startup services like Spotify in the fray too.
Zune Pass, the popular subscription service that allows Zune users to stream music on their Zune portable player may soon see a price cut. An indication towards this was offered by Terry Farrell, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft.
The move comes after Rhapsody, one of the prime rivals for Microsoft in the online music streaming segment announced a price cut on their service which saw users bring down their monthly payment from $14.99 to $10. Microsoft may now match the subscription pricing offered by Rhapsody.
The Zune service, which is now reported to be owned by 2% of American customers, is expected to become available on Windows Phone 7 based smartphones that will release later this year.
[via Business Week]
One more nail lurking over the coffin for GPS navigation companies like TomTom. Rumors are doing the rounds that Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft’s soon to be launched mobile OS might come equipped with a free GPS navigation software that will make the likes of TomTom and Garmin redundant.
You might recall that Android already offers free turn-by-turn navigation on their platform and Nokia too has introduced the same with Ovi maps. With Microsoft too jumping ship, it might not be too late before Apple offers a similar software too. For the record, Cupertino acquired maps development company PlaceBase last year and there are speculations over introduction of GPS soon.
Do you think TomTom and the likes have a niche to cater to in this new world order? Let us know what you think.
Apple’s penchant for depriving users of much necessary features seems to be spreading like a virus. The Windows Phone 7 which is expected to be demoed next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is rumored to come without Flash and multitasking.
In a recently published article, folks at PPCgeeks reveal that the event during MWC will only preview the device and will not be a full length introduction. However, a few interesting features about the OS are likely to be announced
- UI very similar to Zune HD interface
- App installation through a marketplace (similar to Apple App Store)
- Marketplace to include “try before you buy” option
- No backward compatibility
- Complete Zune integration
- Zune software to replace Windows Mobile Device Center for PC syncing
- Full Xbox gaming integration
- Integrated social networking
- No Flash and multitasking
While the features appear interesting, the last point has taken the sheen off the excitement. How about you? Do you feel the same way? Tell us in the comments.