Microsoft is a poor, confused, shell of the company it once was. Recent months have seen the company's founder, Bill Gates, step down as CEO, the company continues to be under fire from anti-trust regulators in Europe, fined several hundred million Euros, and earlier this week, the company went out of its way to try and convince the world that not only was it not a monopoly, but it was actually very friendly to competition - through a pair of press releases that outlined the company's new rules of order, so to speak.
(Microsoft.com: Tenets of Competition)
If that weren't enough, sitting on a mountain of cash, the company finally bowed to pressure from investors, opting to repurchase $20 billion in stock, to reduce the number of shares outstanding. If you're a company the size of Microsoft, and you can't find an array of small to medium sized companies to purchase with that cash, then you just could be very lost. And with the company's online ventures fading, momentum has moved towards truly innovative companies like Apple, Google and a host of Web 2.0 players.
With that as a backdrop, Microsoft proved Apple right by announcing it would indeed try and rattle Apple's dominance of the music world - by introducing a new hard-disk player and music store called Zune. With Apple announcing a blowout quarter this week, and the iTunes/iPod combo owning that space, even in light of competition from MP3-playing cell phones, Microsoft is for once the persnickety upstart. And though data on the new Zune is limited, some of the specs look downright familiar - the device is rectangular, at least one model will be white, with rounded corners, it will feature a video screen for photos, videos and music, and even the buttons mimic that of the third-generation iPods from Apple. But Microsoft is rumored to have upped the ante by introducing WiFI, and will aggressively go after iTunes Music Store customers by opting to pay for their song libraries to be replaced with their own service.
Microsoft started out life as a software company, doing programming languages, before migrating to desktop applications and operating systems. Now, with the XBox and soon to debut, Zune, the baby chick has strayed far from the nest. By going it alone, analysts are already saying that Microsoft stands to alienate partners moreso than gain new friends. And that just might make Apple that much stronger - not that I anticipate them looking forward to the media hype and advertising onslaught sure to befall us this fall.
Additional coverage on Zune... practically everywhere. (Engadget, BetaNews, TechCrunch)
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