Zune Phone Could Fulfill Microsoft's '3 Screens' Wish

Lately I've been writing on these pages about how Microsoft is all but doomed in the smartphone space and desperately needs to accelerate plans for Windows Mobile 7 or else....

Well, Microsoft is not confirming any of it, but two different bits of info this week (call them strong rumors) shed some light on Redmond's oft-maligned mobile strategy.

First, Windows Mobile news site, WM Experts, reports that WinMo 7 may arrive with two different versions: one for businesses, one for consumers. The WM Experts site emphasizes that Microsoft has not confirmed the dual flavors of WinMo 7 and that the information comes from anonymous sources.

With that said, the business edition outlined in the WM Experts story will be a stripped down version of the OS built around compatibility with Microsoft Office and will incorporate multimedia. The consumer or "media" version of WinMo7 will be more full-featured with HD video capability, a Zune-like music player, Facebook and Twitter integration, and Silverlight and Microsoft's IPTV software, MediaRoom, for streaming live TV to the mobile device.

It's still unclear if Xbox Live will be integrated with WinMo 7, but it would certainly make sense as part of Microsoft's "3 screens and a cloud" strategy.

Which leads us to the next WinMo 7 rumor: the revealing of a Microsoft branded Zune-like phone in the next month or two.

All Things Digital, The Wall Street Journal's tech site, cites an analyst's note to clients saying that Microsoft is preparing to launch its own phone running Windows Mobile 7, which would be the fulfillment of its elusive "Pink" phone project.

"Our recent industry checks indicate Microsoft will be debuting its own phone sometime in the next two months," writes Jefferies & Company analyst Katherine Egbert. "We expect the new phone to debut soon, at either the Feb 15-18 Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona Spain, or possibly at CTIA in Las Vegas one month later."

The device would be similar to the Google Nexus One phone, according to Egbert, in that it would be the result of a partnership with a phone manufacturer (HTC produced the Nexus One phone). Egbert believes the Microsoft-branded phone will push multimedia features such as a five-megapixel camera, 720p high-def video and some sort of music subscription service.

A Microsoft-branded Zune phone would complete Redmond's vaunted "3 screens and a cloud" strategy, which promises to provide seamless connection between Windows on a computer, Xbox on TV and Windows Mobile on a phone.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is backing away from discussing Windows Mobile 7, and refutes the claim that it will discuss Windows Mobile 7 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.

That would be a shame because the "3 screens" strategy, when put into practice and understood by the general public, could be a huge boost for Microsoft. It would bring cohesion to the company's disjointed ecosystem.

But until Microsoft bares its WinMo 7 soul, "3 screens and a cloud" is just a catchy phrase.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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