Microsoft to merge Xbox and Zune services?

Gamers and music fans could soon be mixing in the same online community if Microsoft comes good on its promise to merge the Zune and Xbox networks

Microsoft's Xbox 360 console and its Zune MP3 players will one day be connecting to one giant gaming and music portal.

That's according to outspoken Xbox boss, J Allard, who says that Microsoft plans to build a unified entertainment service which can be connected to by all its major products. Presumably that also embraces Windows Vista and Windows Mobile.

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"Today we have Xbox live for $50 a year. We have Zune Pass at $15 a month. We don't have a rationalised premium version yet. Fast forward a little bit, and you can image a menu like DirecTV. There is basic, there is enhanced, there is movie pack and NFL Sunday ticket," he told the New York Times.

"What I want to do at the Entertainment and Devices division is build an entertainment service that can connect, that has a screen and buttons and a speaker, so you can watch what you want, where you want, how you want.

"Xbox is the most connected game experience. When you go down the gaming aisle, you'll see we can do things others can't do. We keep hitting on the idea of connections. And [eventually you won't] have to worry about multiple formats; we do it all for you on the back end. And you can reach all these eyeballs without lifting a finger."

Unified Xbox and Zune

It certainly makes sense for Microsoft to be heading down this route. After all, why have two separate semi-successful content-delivery systems when you can piece together a world beating unified service? It would save Microsoft money whilst also giving Zune and Xbox 360 owners a nicely-rounded, comprehensive portal.

You'd have one do-it-all account instead of two. You'd be able to buy MP3 music and Xbox Live games all in the same transaction. And whether you want videos on your Zune or your Xbox 360, you'd be able to get them from the same place.

When Microsoft will be able to get this kind of infrastructure working is anyone's guess. But it's a strategy that will take a step forward with the full release of Video Marketplace in the UK in December. And a strategy that suggests we may see a game-capable Zune handheld in the future. How else would you connect to Xbox Live in a Starbucks?

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.