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With Microsoft's preview of its new Windows 8 operating system, the Zune platform seems to be moving into further obsolescence. In addition to changes to the Windows Live branding, both the Zune music and video players are being changed to just "Music" and "Video" within Windows 8. As it stands, music, video and games are all going to fall under the "Xbox Live" umbrella. These changes are, in large part, efforts to simplify and “synergize,” so to speak, Windows as a whole.
That being said, it's surprising to see Microsoft begin to undergo what appears to be some very significant branding and software changes. Or at least, it's surprising that it took them so long. Apple, arguably Microsoft's biggest competitor, has been quite successful with this idea of an integrated ecosystem for quite some time. Just think -- when someone says "Microsoft", what do you think about? I highly doubt it's the Zune or anything other than your computer. However, when someone says "Apple", you're much more likely to think about your iPod, iTunes or Macbook.
The difference between the two isn't necessarily about the technical capabilities of their products but rather the integration associated with each. For instance, you plug your iPod into your Macbook and use iTunes to play, buy and store thousands of songs and videos. On the other hand, while Windows does have its own media player and media guide (a barebones iTunes store), they aren’t nearly as prevalent in the user experience because of the openness and control Windows allows. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, many people prefer the Windows operating system over Mac because of the freedom it allows. The problem is a lack of any centralized hub or standard that is effective across all media, while still allowing users to choose whatever other programs they'd like.
Windows Media Center tries to do this but is rather large, slow and clunky. The potential move to a Spotify-esque service and Xbox Live blanketing across several areas would be the first steps in a much needed integration effort for Microsoft. Apple seems to have mastered this concept and, say what you will about restrictions, was named the world's most valuable company last year. It’ll be interesting to see how much this restructuring will effect Windows’ malleability, if at all.
Image Source: teamawindows.blogspot.com