So, why did Microsoft decide to launch the Zune against what many consider nearly unsurmountable odds? Benjamin Higginbotham over at the Technology Evangelist has an interesting theory. It has to do with a few little somethings called codecs. Microsoft has watched Apple and YouTube make other codecs more relevant, Apple with its AAC and MPEG 4 AVC (h.264) and YouTube with Flash Video. Suddenly, Microsoft’s WMV and WMA formats start to lose relevance. And Microsoft starts to lose millions in licensing fees.
I believe Microsoft came out with Zune not to counter the iPod hardware but to make WMV/WMA relevant again. To be more precise they had to counter the iPod to make their CODEC relevant, but they don’t care about the hardware itself, they care about the CODEC.
Benjamin Higginbotham’s is pure conjecture but he certainly presents a plausible argument.
Source: Zune Thoughts