What does Dave McLauchlan’s departure mean for the future of Zune HD apps?

News broke late Tuesday that Microsoft’s Zune HD Senior Business Development Manager, Dave McLauchlan, would be leaving the company — which he did, this past Friday, to begin on a new startup called Buddy.

McLauchlan, most commonly known online as DaveMac or DaveMacMS, was an integral part of the Zune’s online voice (that is to say the company’s) and fostered countering the “Zune is dead” headlines by making a post on Anything But iPod’s forum. And while McLauchlan may have worked with hardware, thus surely letting the public question the future of Zune HD models, the uncertainty of Zune HD applications is still a hot topic.

Not to mention, McLauchlan and others have stated that the Zune hardware has become Windows Phones — and that’s likely where they’ll stay.

Regardless, McLauchlan has been key in the growth of applications for Zune HD. He created a beta testing program for future Zune HD apps. (As an aside: his new startup, Buddy, runs with the tagline “Build mobile apps cheaper, faster & easier” and to get into a business, you should know the business, right?) The program allowed those who signed up and were approved to try out applications before release, like any other beta testing program. But beta testing is quiet as of late.

“Beta testing has been completely lacking action,” one beta tester said quite bluntly to Zunited. When asked to clarify the timeline since beta testing has simmered down, the beta tester said, “Since the last app release.” For those that do not remember, Zune last released new applications (and updates to old ones) on August 2nd.

That’s not to say that testing of applications should be an ongoing active practice, but our source seemed to indicate that the lull was unusual if not just out of the ordinary even if there had been a release recently. Surely, McLauchlan’s departure could instead mean the death of beta testing, not the death of apps entirely, but could they spell both?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know for sure without hearing it out of the horse’s mouth. And anything less is just speculation. The Zune HD turns two years old this week and its roster of apps is underwhelming in comparison to its main competitor. Does the public expect more applications when Microsoft, McLauchlan included, has stated and reiterated that the Zune hardware has shifted focus to Windows Phones? And in that case, the question really is: should they?

That’s neither here nor there. Consumers will always expect more.

But when it comes to applications made specifically for the Zune HD, I’d stay cautiously optimistic at best and resigned at worst.

Image credit: Gear Live