Microsoft’s answer to the iPod Touch, the Zune HD, officially went on sale today across the country in two flavors. A black 16GB version will retail for $219 while a platinum 32GB version will retail for $289. Apple, for the record, isn’t selling a 16GB iPod Touch anymore and its 32GB model sells for $300.
The Zune may be a tad cheaper than comparable offerings from Apple, but it’s hard to argue that the iPod Touch isn’t a more compelling purchase given the 70,000+ and growing app store available for Touch users.
Tellingly, when Zune marketing manager Brian Seitz was asked about the potential for an app store for the Zune HD, his response seemed to indicate that Microsoft has no idea what they’re were doing and what direction they’re headed.
Q: What’s happening with apps?
A: In the marketplace you’ll see an apps tab on the device and in the software.
Last year our apps were games. We introduced a bundle of games in the update, which was convenient but also really painful because the download was really big. So we stripped those out. Now they’re a side-load experience through the software in the marketplace or on the device.
When it comes to apps on Zune on the 15th what you’ll see is primarily games. We’re refreshing a lot of the games to take advantage of the multitouch. Casual games. plus a couple of apps like the weather app and calculator. Plus we’re building a Twitter (app), a Facebook (app) and a bunch of 3D games like “Project Gotham Racing” that will come out in November.
All of our apps are free … and it’s a managed solution right now, so we’re building these apps or working with third parties to build these apps and provide them to our customers for free.
Q: Will it open up for third-party app developers?
A: It’s hard to say right now. If you look around the company at other places where things like this are important, Windows Mobile rises to the top. They have devices which are always connected, which make applications like maps really cool and important.
On a sometimes-connected device, what people are using them for are games. So what we didn’t want to do was build two parallel app store experiences that didn’t work together.
Right now our product roadmaps didn’t line up perfectly for us to snap to what they’re doing or vice versa. That being said, we know people want things like this on their devices so we’re going to build them ourselves, they’re going to be super high-quality, and they’re going to be free.
Down the road if there’s a way we can work with Windows Mobile or another group inside the company that’s building an app store and take advantage of that, that’s something we’ll look into.
So basically, the only apps available for the Zune HD will be produced in-house at Microsoft. And as for the upcoming Windows Marketplace for Windows Mobile Phones? Well, that’s an entirely different issue.
App Stores for mobile devices will undoubtedly be the next proving ground for phones and MP3 players, and with Microsoft’s strategy calling for a disjointed and fragmented approach spread across its Zune HD and Windows Phones product lines, it’s hard to imagine that they even have a fighting chance here.