Manan Kakkar, while browsing through patent documents came across a design of a Zune that never made it. "A group of Softies filed a patent application in 2009 for a media player that Microsoft never ended up launching."
The device was going to be similar in form to Apple's iPod Nano, according to the images Kakkar found.
While there is a slim chance another Zune could make it through the development process, the introduction of Windows Phone 7 has left many in doubt whether Microsoft's range of digital music players can go anywhere. The situation hasn't been particularly helped by conflicting information coming out of Microsoft and the closure of Pioneer Studios that was working on electronic consumer products.
What is of particular interest is that Jonathan Harris who was co-founder of Pioneer Studios has his name amongst others in the patent. This was at a time during which the Zune HD was soon to be released where Microsoft stated that at least one other Zune player would be coming to the technology market. Since then though, news and developments have been focused around Zune as a brand for music and entertainment rather than that of a physical product.
Pioneer Studios, which was charged with building "brand driven consumer experiences for Microsoft's entertainment business: Xbox, Zune, Mobile, and emerging areas," as explained by Harris.
Harris' profile notes that the original Courier team spent two years working on the project. Harris, whose current title is "Principal Experience Director," explains his current role this way:
Co-founder of the Microsoft Courier venture. Georg Petschnigg and I pitched the Courier concept to executive leadership while working at Pioneer studios. Since then Courier was formally incubated as an Alchemy venture project within the entertainment and devices division at Microsoft. For the last 2 years built and led a talented creative team of interaction, motion, brand, and industrial designers to bring the story of Courier to life.
Deeply focused on interaction design. Invented intellectual property in the area of natural user interface design in the context of a digital journal - notable inventions in pen and touch, ink, creation tools, and UI mental models around navigation, search, organization and multi-tasking.
Brand driven thinker. Spent a considerable amount of time understanding how to drive interaction design, industrial design, and brand communication from a core Brand idea. Developed Courier brand story, personality, and creative platform from ground up. Execution of brand went as far as building identity and tools as well as communication concepts: ad campaigns, packaging, point of purchase, and pop up stores.
Passionate about industrial design. Oversaw development of form and function for hardware design. Worked with internal and external partners to re-invent the journal form factor. Inventions include double hinge design execution and soft good integration.
[Via: All About Microsoft]