updated 03:30 pm EST, Fri November 16, 2007
Allard on iPhone and Zune
Microsoft's Zune division chief J Allard has a mixture of praise and criticism for the iPhone as his company prepares to compete more effectively with its own software, an interview reveals. He argues that it is Apple's attention to the design of the cellphone as a whole rather than its connection to the iPod that is pushing sales, and that it represents a step back for the company in terms of ergonomics for music playback.
"It's a lousy iPod," Allard explains. "You can't skip a track without looking at it. You can't go running with the thing."
Nonetheless, the device is the first cellphone to provide a strong browsing experience and is both "beautiful" and "simple" compared to most other phones, he notes. It may also have a unique side-benefit for Windows Mobile as it will force carriers to "check their ego at the door" and allow handset designers to have more control over the final output rather than limiting hardware and software to what suits the carrier's profit levels.
Microsoft's response will be in part to integrate features of the Zune into Windows Mobile, according to Allard. Although a Zune phone is unlikely, he notes that core aspects of the internally developed music player will filter into the media and calling features of the portable OS. The Redmond firm also vows to "never say never" to producing its own cellphone if the market dictates that working with third-parties alone proves unsuccessful.
"If we can put the customer first, we prefer to do it with partners. We didn't create the Zune because we were dying to get into the hardware business and take inventory risk. We felt we had to do it," he says. "Windows was incredible. We got to create most of the magic and take none of the financial risk. History isn't going to repeat that with consumer goods."