Entertaining Shake-Up at Mr. Softy

So, the head of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Zune team departs, and we get another batch of rumors about a Zune phone, alleging that Microsoft will enable it to grab content downloaded and stored to an Xbox 360 -- something the Zune player should already do, actually.

Given that the whole song-sharing capability of the Zune is seriously screwed up, and that product quality control seems to have been very poor (one of our Zunes came with busted headphones, and now the same one has a recurring skip problem), I'm not sure any of the relatively satisfied users out there -- I'm one of the approximately 13 -- will be shedding any tears over Bryan Lee's departure. He was actually VP of the entertainment division, a role far bigger than just the Zune. He'll be replaced by the man largely credited with the success of the Xbox, J Allard.

Will Microsoft's shaved-headed, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) -computer-using, multiple-iPod-toting young Turk do any better?

Let's hope so. This is about more than a couple of devices. The entire mobile-media lifestyle -- not just the living room -- is up for grabs here. If Microsoft doesn't do a better job integrating and innovating, it's going to lose the race. "Crawl, walk, run" doesn't cut it when everyone from Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) to Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) is already sprinting, looking to stake out as big a claim as possible.

So good luck, J. I've got a brief wish list: No more features that aren't really features. Hire some decent design engineers to get the hardware to a better level of finish. And bust out a few bazillion bucks from the Microsoft vault and wrap up some deals to get more content into the Xbox/Zune ecosystem.

And J, while you're at it, do us Zune early adopters a solid. How about a trade-in from this beta model when you finally get the real product figured out? Finally, if you need some real-life users to help your eggheads figure out what works and what doesn't, drop me a line. I got nothin' but love for ya, but it's tough love. I think your team could use a dose.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Curious about why? (Hint: It's not because of the brown Zune.) You can check out a 30-day free trial to see the reasoning behind this and every other pick. Netflix is a Stock Advisor choice.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft calls and common, but persnickety enough about Mr. Softy that the PR folks don't like returning his calls. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.


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