It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

Summary: It looks like it's finally official that Microsoft is out of the Zune hardware business -- the same day that Microsoft is changing its ZunePass subscription terms of service.

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When Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported in March of this year that Microsoft had decided to pull the plug on its Zune media players, Microsoft officials declined to confirm that was the case.

(To be more precise, Microsoft officials' response to that story were so convoluted that it was impossible to tell if they were confirming it without confirming it; denying it; or not commenting on it. The Microsoft manager who provided that statement recently left Microsoft to launch a startup, by the way.)

A few of us loyal Zune HD users were holding out hope that in spite of the ridicule by many of our beloved HDs, Microsoft might still deliver one more Zune.

However, on October 3, Microsoft pulled all references to the Zune HD devices from the Zune.Net page, as first noted by Zune Most Valuable Professional Marques Lyons (@tromboneforhire). The new Zune.Net page refers to Zune solely in the context of the Zune Music Pass -- the service formerly known as plain-old ZunePass.

Update: Microsoft officials said the publishing of the page without the Zune devices mentioned was a mistake. The old page is back up that mentions Zune HD devices. I still think no more new models are in the works, but Microsoft still isn't saying that, to be clear.

Microsoft officials have been signaling for a couple of years that Zune's future was as a service, not hardware. But they also said that Microsoft planned to deliver one more Zune player after the Zune HDs, which the company launched in the fall of 2009. There were rumors that Microsoft might deliver a new Zune player line this year.

But with today's move, it seems the Zune HD is the end of the Zune hardware line. I've asked Microsoft officials for confirmation, but am not expecting I'll get it. If I do, I'll update this post. Update: No comment from Microsoft as to whether there will be another Zune player, but as I note above, I'm increasingly doubtful.

While on the topic of Zune, if you're among those unable to access Zune music on your Xbox today, Microsoft is acknowledging it is experiencing multiple Xbox Live service issues. Here's the Xbox Live status dashboard showing the Xbox Live problems, as of early afternoon on October 3:

(click on the image above to enlarge) Microsoft officials said via Twitter they are aware of the Xbox Live problems and are working to remedy them. Update: Xbox Live seems to be back up, as of 2:30 ET or so.

Today, October 3, is the day that Microsoft officially changes the terms of service for its ZunePass subscription offering and turns on the service in Canada.

Microsoft isn't the only company rethinking whether standalone media players are a sound business, for what it's worth. Apple may be distancing itself from the iPod, too, though there's no official word from that company, either.

Bottom line: There are no more Zune media player devices coming. WPCentral quotes the Microsoft support page, which states: "We recently announced that, going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players." (I'm not sure when Microsoft believes it recently announced this, but there you go...)

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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21 comments
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  • MS had the right intentions

    MS set out to build a device that did music and video better than anyone else did and from the reviews I read, they succeeded.

    Unfortunately for MS, the music and video player in the iPod Touch (and iPhone) is "good enough". Even though the Zune was better, it was difficult to justify giving up all the things an iPod Touch could do just to get a slightly better music and video player.

    Apple won with a product that could do everything just "good enough" even though it wasn't the best at any one thing.

    There is a lesson there. Sometimes it isn't worth it to create the best single purpose device when people are willing to settle for a device that can be "good enough" at many things.
    toddybottom
    • That's hilarious

      Exactly how MS won the desktop, a product that was "good enough". ROFLOL!!!
      @toddybottom
      GoPower
      • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

        @GoPower maybe, it's an opinion. But your statement is really sad, because obviously the ones that didn't win were not even "good enough".
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

        @ItsTheBottomLine
        Now would you be talking about the Zune, Linux or Mac OSX. I wouldn't know from your comment unless I knew whether you were a MS, Linux or Apple fanboy.
        anono
    • You don't know why...

      @toddybottom Even though it is very very obviously, people just don't get it.

      Microsoft don't have any motivation for this market. It was a mistake at the beginning. Look, MP3 player is done. No matter who make it. It doesn't worth the effort. I can tell you microsoft give it up shortly after enter the market.
      jk_10
      • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

        @jk_10 It was a stepping stone for an xna based mobile platform. Without it, microsoft wouldn't have been able to test or develop the interface for WP7 fully. Not that it was the main reason for it, but there was a very visible transition.
        mockylock
    • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

      @toddybottom

      Perhaps the screen resolution of the Zune HD should have at least matched that of the iPod Touch, it's amazing the amount of people who fell for Microsoft's slightly misleading reference to "HD" as in RADIO.

      Anyway, apparently the Zune is back, so head on down to your local Microsoft store for some boot scooting boogie.
      bannedagain
      • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

        @bannedagain
        "Anyway, apparently the Zune is back, so head on down to your local Microsoft store for some boot scooting boogie."

        MS had so little faith in the Zune Media Player, that it was never released outside the USA or Canada and, as far as I can tell, there are no plans for the Zune HD to be released in other countries. It is all well and good for people to say that the best option now is for Zune to be a service, and not a device, but that was not the case in 2007 when the ZUNE MP was released in the USA and nor was it the case in 2008 when it was released in Canada. If MS does not care about the rest of the world, why should the rest of the world care about MS?
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    "Microsoft isn???t the only company rethinking whether standalone media players are a sound business"

    Good pun!
    On the upside, there may be some in-between platform emerging living on in the form of the smartphone without a phone, such as that iPod touch, or the Samsung Galaxy player: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/samsung-galaxy-player-50-40-hit-stores-october-16/27649
    TBone2k
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    A great service with no way of making the music mobile unless you lock up a 2 year contract and pay for a phone. Pathetic. I guess you can skip the contract and pay $600 for the phone to use as a portable music player.
    mike2k
    • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

      @mike2k I have yet to find a WP7 phone at $600 without a contract. I'm not sure what you're smoking. You can buy a focus for $200 brand new without a contract.
      mockylock
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    My daughter loves her Zune and it has lived past two iPods (batteries died). Still works very well and holds a ton. She loves it...this will not be a happy moment for her. The Zune software is wonderful, that is something Apple could learn from, becasue iTunes is a piece-o-garbage. Would be wonderful to hook up the Zune software to the iTouch... now that would be great!
    ItsTheBottomLine
  • I for one wont be surprised at all if MS comes out with another device

    Not a Zune because it wont be just a zune and not a Windows Phone because it wont have a phone, but an iPod touch like device that will have wifi, zune, xbox live, an run all the windows phone apps and xbox games. Maybe named some sort of personal/mobile xbox something or other.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    It's as if tens of Zune owners cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
    WarhavenSC
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    I would have got one, but . . .

    MS never released it in my country (Australia). The lesson here, surely, is: If a product is to succeed, then it must be available for customers to buy.
    Melbourne37
  • Did Microsoft ever...

    take Zune seriously? It never seemed to get any real media push and it has never been released outside the USA.

    It has been "coming, maybe, soon" in Europe for several years now, without actually making an appearance.

    That said, I use my htc 7 Mozart and Sensation for listening to Podcasts and Audible (Sensation only, no WP7 support yet), so a separate MP3 player isn't a real must for me but I wonder how it would have been received, if they had released it properly.
    wright_is
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

    Who knew they still made the thing? Who cares? Launching in the USA only is the same dumb trick that Amazon plays with their devices they have no faith in.
    Graham Ellison
  • Too bad

    I have several Zunes. 4g, 16hd and 3 30gig originals that all still work beautifully. I love them and I'm going to stock up on a few....
    TKodiak
  • RE: It finally looks to be the end of the road for Microsoft Zune media players

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