Backwards Compatibility As A Business Decision
"Even with a big update, there are still many areas where the Zune comes up short when compared to Apple's iPod. It's easy to argue that Apple still has the lead in styling, breadth of video content, add-on accessories, and software and compatibility. (Zune works only on Windows PCs.) Not to mention the fact that Microsoft has nothing to match Apple's iPod Touch with its ability to surf the Web and run a wide range of add-on programs. But there are a couple of areas where Microsoft deserves significant credit. The most important, from my perspective, is that every feature that Microsoft has added to the Zune is available for free to owners of previous generation Zunes."
I was tempted to write off this article by CNet's Ina Fried as yet another article praising Microsoft for making the 3.0 and 2.0 firmware backwards-compatible with every Zune device--something Apple and other PMP makers should have done since the start. After reading the article, however, it becomes clear that Microsoft made a strong commitment to its customers, not just in avoiding planned obsolescence, but in building up the ecosystem to provide value for every Zune owner. If I have the latest blue Zune 16), but my buddy is still rocking the brown Zune 30 that he bought back in 2006, I'm still able to beam him my favorite podcast, play him (eventually) in Texas Hold 'Em, and get that photo he took of us last week to set as a background. In centering this latest update around music discovery, Microsoft has built a strong motivation to sign up for the Zune Pass and Zune Social, both of which end up being beneficial to Zune owners and Microsoft alike.