iPod Lives, Zune Dies

By Mike on 11:30 am

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The beat goes on for the iPod Classic. Contrary to rumours, Apple will keep making and selling the iconic music player. Meanwhile, things are not looking so good for the Zune. Microsoft's music player and iPod killer is official dead.

According to the Zune website, Microsoft announced that "Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players."

The Zune has had a bumpy history. It was created as Microsoft's answer to the iPod and iTunes. It even looked and functioned similar to Apple's venerable player. 

The device was launched in 2006 to mixed reaction. While certainly as good as the iPod, it had its problems. Namely a poorly implemented copy-protection system. It was unable to play certain files using PlaysForSure, Microsoft's own DRM scheme. The original Zune was also plagued with a clock bug, which corrupted the system software at January 1st, 2009 at 12am GMT.

Despite it's initial shortcomings, the Zune eventually grabbed ten percent of the US marketshare for all MP3 players. Given the sea of choices at the time, and the dominance of the iPod, it seemed Microsoft was onto something. The original Zune 30 gave way to larger capacity models, a "nano" version, and finally the Zune HD. The latter was an attempt to capitalize on the success of the iPod Touch. With it's nVidia Tegra Processor, unique touch interface, and OLED screen, it was arguably the best Zune. Many of the Zune HD's software features would be implemented in Windows Phone 7. 

Zune 4/8/16 and it's nano sized cousin

Despite great hardware and good software to back it up, the Zune continued to trail in the market. By 2008, sales were dipping. GameStop decided to stop selling the player at their stores due to lack of interest. However, 2008 happened to mark the Zune's international launch. The Zune was made available in Canada. This was the first time it had been sold outside the US.

Perhaps that was the Zune's downfall. It never attracted the same international audience that the iPod did. Microsoft went as far to actively discourage international customers from accessing certain online features. The Zune also failed to clearly differentiate itself from Apple. It was too similar to the iPod, and sold at the same price-point, but lacked the same global support. 

As smartphones began to replace dedicated devices, the Zune's days became numbered. It was a fantastic player, hampered by poor marketing.

Update: Just after publishing this, I spotted a new article that says the Zune hasn't died after all. I guess neither Apple nor Microsoft knows what to do with their MP3 players. You can still buy the Zune HD for a cool $160. 

Title image courtesy of Blogging With Ike

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