Goodnight Zune

Chalk up one more victory for Apple. According to reports, Microsoft is about to pull the plug on the Zune.

First released in 2006, the Zune music and media player was intended by Microsoft to be its iPod killer. Those plans didn’t exactly work out. The initial product launch was fairly disastrous. In 2009, Microsoft redesigned the device with a larger screen and new features that made it more of a direct competitor for the iPod Touch. The new Zune HD was better received. Many reviewers and owners will even argue that, from a hardware and design perspective, it’s actually superior to the iPod Touch. However, Microsoft was still unable to grab a significant foothold in the market. The Zune HD came too late and didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from a product much more firmly embedded in the popular consciousness.

For the purpose of watching movies (our main focus here at The Bonus View), the Zune HD seems like a nice mobile device. Unfortunately, it’s hampered by a lack of compatibility with Digital Copy (as far as I’m aware, it won’t even play the WMV version of Digital Copies that many studios offer) or a downloadable catalog anywhere near comparable to the iTunes Store. Sure, you can rip DVDs to play on it – but you can do that just as well on pretty much any smartphone these days. Since the Zune HD doesn’t make phone calls, I personally didn’t see it offering me much that I wouldn’t rather do on my Android phone.

Apparently, a lot of other people agreed. Reuters is now reporting that Microsoft is on the verge of discontinuing the device, to focus instead on adding Zune software and features into other mobile phones. That’s probably a wise decision.

Are any of our readers Zune or Zune HD owners? Tell us your thoughts on the product and this news in the Comments below.

9 comments

  1. HuskerGuy

    I hear lots of great things about them but never owned one. Like you, I have a smart phone that takes care of everything I need now.

    I think the Zune reference made in Chuck vs Tom Sawyer pretty much sums up the majority of people’s take on the Zune.

    I’m ad libbing here, but:

    Chuck: Morgan, does the store carry any Rush cds?
    Morgan: No need, I’ve got ’em all on my Zune.
    Chuck: You have a Zune?
    Morgan: Nah, I’m just kidding I’ll go get my Ipod.

  2. Tim

    I would have bought a Zune, but MS never made them available in Canada. Not that selling it in Canada would have helped.

    As much as I dislike Apple’s closed environment, the way they integrate their hardware and software is amazing. The iTunes software makes it so easy for almost anyone to get Apple approved content on their devices. MS, on the other hand, has…what? As such, MS never had a chance to make a dent in the portable music player arena even if their hardware was arguably superior to Apple’s.

  3. I had a Zune. Good device! I actually only bought it so I could use the music subscription service.

    In the end, the service started dropping artists I needed and I dropped the Zune.

  4. Keith

    Not exactly sure how this counts as a victory to Apple. Dedicated MP3 players as a whole are slowly fading into the horizon as smartphones even dumbphones take over. MS is getting out of it ahead of the game to focus on other things.

    • It’s a victory to Apple because a combination of perfect industrial design and ingenious marketing has made it frankly embarassing to own an MP3 player that isn’t an iPod. Let’s not forget they’ve not only beaten Microsoft in this race, but given Sony a sound whupping too.

      I think you’re right about smartphones putting the squeeze on dedicated MP3 players, but since our smartphones now need big glossy touchscreens there’s a limit on how small they can get; the MP3 player market will keep moving toward tiny devices, and Apple will remain at the forefront of that for the forseeable future.

  5. The only problem with phones at the moment, is their lack of memory at a decent price, so I no longer use mine despite a 16Gb card. It just doesn’t hold enough (If it’s going to be my primary playback device of convenience, I don’t want to sacrifice quality). But then again, the larger sized MP3 players are all extremely expensive as well anyway, so I either play music back on my laptop, or pop in the original CD.

    I never bought a Zune (It wasn’t exactly marketed in the UK), but I’d sure as hell have bought one before I buy an iPod. Everyone I know who has one regrets it, and similarly everyone I know who uses iTunes(mostly the same people) are telling me frustrations and problems that are just non-existent with any other music devices/software. Then again, I rarely download music myself. I’m more of a ‘Buy CD and rip’ guy. I still like to have that original physical back-up. 🙂

  6. John Grady

    Still have my original ’06 Zune. iPods never lasted more than 6 months for me.

    In my opinion they are garbage and so is the iTunes software, but maybe that’s only because I’m so used to the Zune software.

    I was even given an iTouch by a friend for free, but I disliked it and iTunes so much I turned around and gave it to a different friend for free.

    Kind of sad to hear this.

  7. John Wielgosz

    Bought a ZuneHD in late ’09. I’ve never cared for the iTunes/iPod market, and while the Zune is also a closed system, I much prefer the software and device. Plus, I REALLY, REALLY don’t like Apple anymore.

    The big, big problem with using a smartphone as a media player is the way these things drain through battery life. I can’t go a day without recharging mine, even with minimal/casual use. Battery life just hasn’t been able to keep place with the feature set. And as noted above, storage is still an issue.

  8. Yeah, it’s really unfortunate that the Zune HD was the loser in the battle, even though I’ll take better hardware/software every time.

    But really, once you have a product that spreads like wildfire and becomes part of the culture’s consciousness, it’s impossibly hard to compete with.

    Reminds me of the whole Wii/PS3 debate…

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