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, Microsoft said in a statement.
Current Zune users will be able to access the same customer support and services they always have, and Microsoft will honor all warranties for those devices currently owned, and those who buy the very last devices.
Microsoft picked an interesting day to discontinue its music player: Apple chose this day several weeks ago to announce what many expect to be a brand-new iPhone. Throughout its entire life, Zune suffered the consequences of being in constant competition with Apple devices.
The Zune originally debuted on Nov. 14, 2006, and featured Wi-Fi, 30GB of storage, built-in FM, and a 3-inch screen. It could play music, pictures, and video. The Zune was stylish, colorful, and easy to use, but it paled in comparison to Apple's primetime line-up of iPods at the time, including the fifth generation iPod, and the newly-introduced iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano.
Apple's iPod Touch, unveiled in September 2007, was the first nail in Zune's coffin. For the next couple of years, consumers were infatuated with touch screens and wanted no part of a music player that didn't have one. Zune may have rivaled the iPod in performance, but not marketing, and certainly not in popularity.
There were certainly warning signs that Zune might fail. Fans gave up on the product far too quickly. Even Steve Smith, the man who infamously tattooed three Zune logos onto his skin (including the Zune's slogan, Welcome to the social), decided to have his tattoos covered up in frustration of Microsoft's music player.
I am done, wrote Smith in an online forum over at Zune Scene. I have had the Zune since day one and have noticed little improvement. I have tried my best to support them in every step of the way but the recent Xbox Live announcement at E3 made me lose it. To not include Zune Marketplace or the ability to load videos from Xbox Live to your Zune made me finally give up. I am in the works of figuring the best way to get a new tattoo to cover the logo on my arm. Thanks for all the harsh comments and you will see very little of me anymore.
But a major limitation of the Zune was that it was only compatible with Windows PCs. Even Apple knew that it couldn't achieve its goals with such a limited audience, which is why the company eventually created the iTunes music player for Windows. Microsoft strategists never considered this decision, and subsequently missed out on a big chunk of potential users.
Zune sales plummeted nearly $100 million from 2007 to 2008, and rough sales forced many retailers and distributors to stop selling. One of those retailers was the popular electronics outlet GameStop.
We have decided to exit the Zune category because it just did not have the appeal we had anticipated, said a GameStop spokesperson. It did not fit with our product mix.
In the summer of 2009, it seemed that Microsoft finally got it right. The company launched the Zune HD, a thin, beautiful multi-touch device. With a slick Web browser and a powerful NVIDIA Tegra chip, the Zune HD looked like a winner. But by this time, Apple was selling apps, and the Zune didn't have any.
The Zune is succeeded by its younger, smarter, more stylish cousin, the Windows Phone 7.
The Zune is dead. Long live the Zune.