In an unusual move, software giant Microsoft has revealed it plans to open up some of its consumer devices to users outside the Windows universe: the company has confirmed plans to release syncing options for both Zune devices and Windows Phone 7 devices by the end of the year.
“Later in 2010 Microsoft will make a public beta available of a tool that allows Windows Phone 7 to sync select content with Mac computers,” Microsoft said in a brief statement. The statement followed a probably-unintentional leak to Twitter by a UK Microsoft executive.
Microsoft hasn’t laid out any specifics for its Zune conduit, although it seems likely that the system will enable Mac users to sync media in iTunes and iPhoto with Zune devices. Microsoft has never released a Zune client or media player applications for the Macintosh, in part because of the development effort involved in bringing Zune DRM technology to a non-Windows platform.
However, with Windows Phone 7 devices, Microsoft has a greater incentive to sync with Macintosh computers so users can bring their contacts and calendars over the phones, along with media and other content. Industry watchers speculate Microsoft may develop a conduit that works with Windows Live services to sync contacts and other information. Some reports indicate that Microsoft does not plan to support Windows Phone 7 software updates via a Mac client: for that, folks will apparently still need a Windows-based machine.
Being able to sync with Macs may give Microsoft a shot at converting customers who live or work in mixed-platform environments. However, Apple aficionados historically don’t like being treated as second-class citizens, and are more likely to stick with Apple’s own product lines rather than be lured away to Microsoft products simply by being able to sync.