Ballmer casts doubts on Zune phone rumors

In September of last year, Microsoft's General Manager of Zune Global Marketing stated on the record that a Zune phone was "definitely part of the future of [the Zune] brand." Since then, we've heard a number of rumors about such a device: Microsoft was said to have had a meeting about the Zune phone where it had already fleshed out its features, and we even spotted a patent application for what might very well apply to a Zune phone user interface last week.

That said, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has now made an official statement regarding the device that puts a question mark on whether a Zune phone is in the works at all. During a Q&A session on the University of Washington campus, Ballmer told the following to a USA Today interviewer who asked about the Zune phone:

It's not a concept you'll ever get from us. We're in the Windows Mobile business. We can put Zune into Windows Mobile, we can put Xbox into Windows Mobile. We can pour everything in. We wouldn't define our phone experience just by music. A phone is really a general-purpose device. You want it to make telephone calls. You want to get and receive messages -- text, e-mail, whatever your preference is. You may want music, you may want to play games, you may want to carry your contacts with you, and you may want to pay for things. I think we have to think about the phone instead of as a fixed-function device, a phone is really kind of a general purpose device that we need to have clean and easy to use.
As the Seattle PI states, those comments are definitely open to interpretation. Considering Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system is found on smart phones as much as PDAs and other handheld devices, "putting Zune into Windows Mobile" could mean adding a music playback interface that would be used by third-party device makers making music phones. However, Ballmer does seem to deny that Microsoft will ever introduce a device of its own. (Thanks to Engadget for the tip.)
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