updated 11:00 am EDT, Thu July 24, 2008
MS Zune Phone Begins
Microsoft has held its first concrete meetings to design a Zune-branded cellphone, according to an unconfirmed but allegedly credible leak from jkOnTheRun. The device is well away from completion but is intended to use multi-touch input and would use a variant of Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft's first major overhaul to its smartphone platform since 2005. Windows Live services will be a major focus along with the Zune's emphasis on media playback.
Little else is known about the device, although Microsoft has made multi-touch a focus of Windows 7 on the desktop and is believed to be doing the same for Windows Mobile 7 along with a revamped interface and support for motion sensing. The software is tentatively scheduled to arrive in the second half of 2009 and would line up with Microsoft's historical tendency to develop Zune devices over the course of one year.
The company has publicly denied plans to produce a Zune phone but has described the existing Zune line and store as 'investments' for a future strategy while claiming that it would focus only on improving Windows Mobile for hardware partners. However, the company developed its PlaysForSure initiative for Windows Media-based online music stores only to introduce the proprietary Zune Marketplace in late 2006, which resulted in the end of both Microsoft's own MSN Music and the URGE store run with help from MTV.
A buyout of Danger earlier this year has also raised interest in Microsoft's plans, as the Sidekick designer is best known for developing media- and messaging-oriented mobile software as well as informing the development of matching hardware.