updated 10:15 am EDT, Mon June 9, 2008
MS on Zune Touch
Microsoft ultimately expects its Zune media player line to receive a touchscreen, the company's Entertainment and Devices chief Robbie Bach says. Without committing to a specific product, the executive describes the addition as near-certain and implies that the media player will eventually drop its physical control pad entirely in favor of a touch interface as part of a broader company philosophy.
"Take the device independent [of the Zune] for a second and just assume that over time where there's a screen, touch will be part of it," Bach says. "It's not going to matter what the product line is. You're going to see it be a cornerstone of the work we do."
Microsoft is considered one of the more successful rivals to Apple but has historically lagged behind the iPod as it focuses on expanding its lineup to include the essentials rather than introducing a touchscreen player at the same time as the iPod touch in the fall of last year. The company launched a flash-based Zune roughly two years after Apple and this spring has just added TV shows, smart playlists, and other features present in earlier versions of Apple's software.
Bach is less direct regarding the prospect of a Zune phone and first says that there are no plans to develop an in-house phone under the Zune label or a similar platform, but agrees with a consensus that an all-in-one device is inevitable. Establishing the Zune, its software, and an online store are part of a "broad investment" that will pay off later, he says. The official also notes that the company is "comfortable" with both hardware and software.
Additionally, he states that Microsoft fully expects to outsell BlackBerries and iPhones in the near future and points to a forecast of 20 million devices sold preloaded with the OS by the end of the company's current financial year, with as many as 30 million sold in the following year. Apple itself plans to sell 10 million iPhones in calendar 2008.