Will the company ever get it? Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has confirmed a plan to make Zune-like media features available within Windows Mobile phones. Will this make a real difference, or is the company simply going through the motions to keep shareholders happy?

In a recent interview, Ballmer explained, “What you’ll see more and more over time is that the Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices."

Microsoft is also expected to add more multimedia features to its Xbox 360 in future, specifically access to the media store, a la Apple TV. "At the end of the day, one of the big trends is that all content is going to be digital," he said. Well spotted – we’re sure Apple CEO Steve Jobs was saying this way back when, when he introduced us to iLife v.1 and the notion of the "digital hub" at Macworld Expo, 2002. 

Jupiter Research European Media Analyst, Nick Thomas, told TechRadar, "Apple’s success with the iPod has been to build an ecosystem around software, content partnerships and hardware, making its profits from the hardware."

The analyst is far less certain Microsoft can achieve the same, pointing out, "Microsoft doesn’t have the content experience to build a compelling aggregated rival to iTunes and doesn’t have the experience of hardware manufacturing (Xbox aside) on a scale to compete with the iPod." Missing features, such as support for BBC iPlayer, also affect the company’s market position, the report suggests.

Apple already boasts 65 million active iTunes users, is the number one music distributor in the US, where iPod holds 73.4 per cent of the market in comparison with Zune’s 2.6 per cent.

The question for Microsoft, its customers and shareholders must be, is the Zune alternative really compelling, original or unique enough to dent Apple’s dominance? And if it’s not, then where can the beleagured giant software company set itself up with an early position in an emerging giant market?

The record so far says it isn’t.

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