In a recent blog post, Microsoft informed its Windows Phone customers (if they read Microsoft's Windows Phone blog), that some changes are coming to the company's Zune client for desktop PCs. When Windows Phone was launched, either Zune on the PC or the Marketplace on the phone were the only places to search for and download apps. But later, Microsoft also launched the web version of its Marketplace for Windows Phone. However, Microsoft confirmed that most Windows Phone owners browse, download and buy apps on their phones but also the web Marketplace, which debuted last September on the Windows Phone website, has become a popular place to shop - especially since it's available from any Internet-connected PC or Mac.
In its posting, Microsoft said it "like to focus our engineering efforts where they matter most, and your taps and clicks tell us that's our phone and web stores". Therefore, starting today, Microsoft began the process of removing the Windows Phone apps option from the Zune software. However, the Zune HD app store will remain open (due date unknown so far).
On the left, Zune Marketplace with apps for Windows Phone 7, on the right the new Marketplace with Zune HD only
The good news is, that this change won't require Windows Phone users to do anything special. Next time Zune is opened, users will see a simply pop-up (above) letting them know that features have changed. Unfortunately Microsoft isn't informing what has changed and if users are neither reading Microsoft's blog nor this site, they have no info what is different, next time they open Zune.
Nevertheless, Zune is still somewhat useful and necessary for Windows Phone users. While the download and purchase option is gone, it's still the only way to install Windows Phone software updates, because Microsoft is still not offering the by far more popular and easy to use FOTA updates, as well as Zune is still the only way to make copy photos and videos, stored on a Windows Phone, to a PC.
And while we are talking about device updates. Microsoft furthermore announced, that maybe a handful of users haven't upgraded from earlier versions to Windows Phone 7.5/Mango yet (most likely because they've never installed Zune). However, starting in the next few weeks anybody who wants to buy or download a new app, update an existing app, or submit app reviews to Marketplace will need Windows Phone 7.5 or higher on their phone; what effectively means that Microsoft is cutting off Windows Phone 7 and NoDo from the Marketplace. According to Microsoft, the reason behind this change is that the Windows Phone Marketplace is growing fast and now has over 80,000 apps overall and is available in 54 (soon to be 63) countries around the world. Requiring Windows Phone 7.5 is part of a larger effort aimed at improving Marketplace performance and security, and paving the way for even faster growth and more new features.
Users without upgraded devices will be still be able to browse Marketplace but they'll get an error message if they try to install an app or game, or update one already on the phone.
Cheers ~ Arne