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Zune HD
Zune software, however, will soldier on

Is it finally game over for Microsoft's Zune hardware business? What we first came to know as the Argo media player built by Toshiba -- and available in turd brown -- has gone through several revisions over the years. The current Zune HD offers a sleek design, OLED screen, and up to 64GB of storage capacity.

However, it looks as though Microsoft just can't keep up with the likes of Apple with its iPod, or even SanDisk and Creative. Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft is on the verge of killing off future versions of its Zune portable media players (PMPs). While new Zune hardware will no longer be produced, the Zune software bits will continue to creep into Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices.

This isn’t the first time that trouble has followed Microsoft’s Zune, however. Back in 2008, GameStop stopped stocking Zune players in its stores due to a lack of sales. “We have decided to exit the Zune category because it just did not have the appeal we had anticipated,” said a GameStop spokesman in May 2008. “It (also) did not fit with our product mix.” 

With Microsoft’s share of the smartphone market down just a few months after the launch of its innovative Windows Phone 7 operating system, the boys from Redmond need to be focusing their energies on this highly lucrative segment of the market instead of its failed efforts in the dedicated PMP market. 

Apple’s range of iPod players command 77 percent of the market according to NPD.

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Kind of sad.
By HackSacken on 3/14/2011 6:14:39 PM , Rating: 5
Zune and Zune HD are great devices. Paired with a Zune subscription/pass, they are a music lovers dream.

Hope the Zune software pieces can continue to flourish elsewhere; ie: WP7.

RE: Kind of sad.
By Kurz on 3/14/2011 6:23:36 PM , Rating: 2
I was never into portable music though I wish Microsoft did a better job marketing their product.

RE: Kind of sad.
By Souka on 3/14/2011 7:46:47 PM , Rating: 1
What's a Zune?

RE: Kind of sad.
By satveeraj on 3/15/2011 2:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
Seems like this post is irrelvant to you, just like your comment.

RE: Kind of sad.
By BushStar on 3/17/2011 10:18:24 AM , Rating: 2
Whoosh... Straight over your head...

RE: Kind of sad.
By Iridium130m on 3/14/11, Rating: 0
RE: Kind of sad.
By Zo0noUno on 3/14/2011 6:35:39 PM , Rating: 4
Hands down the most sleek interface for an MP3 player. It's an absolute pleasure to use. Same goes with the Zune player.

RE: Kind of sad.
By torpor on 3/14/2011 6:36:50 PM , Rating: 2
3> my Zune HD. It's so much easier to deal with than an iPod and all that iTunes nonsense. And the screen is really terrific.

But it makes sense to roll the player into the phone. Really, that's where it's all headed anyway. It started with cell phone, went to cell + laptop, then cell + laptop + PIM, then cell + laptop + PIM + mp3 player. We've narrowed out the PIM and, increasingly, the laptop, by rolling it into the cell phone.

The mp3 player is overdue to get the consolidation treatment.

RE: Kind of sad.
By ClownPuncher on 3/14/2011 7:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
That is a backwards heart, or a butt in an icecream cone.

I agree, though. My ZuneHD has quite good sound quality especially when compared to any of the Apple line of MP3 players.

RE: Kind of sad.
By Samus on 3/14/2011 10:17:36 PM , Rating: 1
I wouldn't attack Apple's hardware for sound quality, as it is generally pretty good. They are a company that focuses on audio and visual quality, which is why they've integrated speakers into every Mac produced and always have excellent monitors, usually PVA or IPS panels.

What's worth attacking is AAC: a shit format compared to WMA or MP3. However, the Zune hardware really shines with lossless WMA where Apple being Apple just supported AAC and unhappily MP3/M4A. iTunes was always happy to convert your MP3's to the inferior, DRM-happy AAC, though.

Official Zune HD support:

• .wma (pro, standard, lossless, etc)
• .wmv (7, 8, 9, 9HD)
• .aac (unprotected)
• .mp3
• .jpg
• .mp4 (all mpeg4 varieties)
• .m4v
• .m4a
• .m4b
• .mov
• .avi (DivX)

Un-official Zune HD support via plugin:

• .mkv (any h264/x264 in container)
• .asf
• .flac
• .atrac
• .ogg
• .AIFF (ironically, even Apple no longer supports this)

iPod (Touch) support:

• .aac (protected/unprotected)
• .mp3
• .mp4
• .jpg
• .mp4
• .m4a
• .m4v
• .mov

RE: Kind of sad.
By Totally on 3/14/2011 10:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
He wasn't saying the apple's sound was bad, he's saying Zune's quality is better

RE: Kind of sad.
By Alexvrb on 3/14/2011 11:11:32 PM , Rating: 2
Then I'll say it: iPods have inferior sound quality compared to just about any similarly-priced PMP. Although I am told that installing Rockbox on an iPod improves sound quality, so it might not be entirely hardware.

That doesn't even count the aforementioned WMA lossless support, which is bitchin' if you really want true CD quality audio, and you've got your Zune hooked up to a nice system.

The Zune hardware had a lot of cool stuff, but the most important thing is the Zune pass. Since you can use the Zune pass on other devices, I don't think it will matter too much.

RE: Kind of sad.
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/14/2011 11:24:13 PM , Rating: 2
Completely incorrect. Given the same bitrate, AAC (which is the audio component of mpeg4) is of a higher quality than mp3. It is a much newer and more efficient codec, mp3 having been released in 1993 and mp4 having been released in 1997. Saying that mp3 is better than AAC at the same bitrate is like saying that mpeg2 is superior to h.264: wrong.

Also, M4A is the same codec as AAC, just with a different filename extension at the end.

RE: Kind of sad.
By Flunk on 3/14/2011 11:24:38 PM , Rating: 3
AAC doesn't have any DRM natively, Apple wraps them in a DRM wrapper. MP3 is an older and less complex codec than AAC, which is very similar to the current WMA standard .

I'm no Apple fan but there is no reason to fly off the handle at AAC (which is part of the MPEG 4 standard), which is quite a good codec.

RE: Kind of sad.
By vision33r on 3/15/2011 10:35:11 AM , Rating: 2
Lol, if you think AAC is an Apple proprietary format your entire post is irrelevant.

AAC VBR 256mb/s > 320mb/s MP3

Faster decoding and less space than MP3.

That's what gets me about people who don't like or understand Apple, they don't have their facts right.

The Zune is a good product no doubt but Microsoft is just terrible these days under Ballmer. No clear vision.

RE: Kind of sad.
By Samus on 3/15/2011 11:24:47 AM , Rating: 2
What I was talking about specifically is the crap you download from iTunes, usually 96k-128k protected AAC.

That is completely unacceptable for 99 cents. But you can always pay more for 192k. lol

RE: Kind of sad.
By InternetGeek on 3/14/2011 8:07:45 PM , Rating: 3
It's sad to see good hardware be phased out. But this is in line with the WP7 strategy. Why would you have both a phone and a mp3 player when you can have both in one paired with a good (non intrusive) music service of your choice?

RE: Kind of sad.
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/14/2011 11:28:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I think it'll continue in WP7. It's a really good media player

By stm1185 on 3/14/2011 6:50:57 PM , Rating: 5
I can not think of a single reason why I would buy a Zune or an iPod Touch or any other media player that costs as much or more then the cost of a smart phone, which does everything these other devices do, plus a whole lot more.

Storage capacity on the media player might be higher then the phones, but then with the Zune software and WP7 you can stream anything you want from Zune's multi million song collection and simply do not need to carry all your music with you.

The era of carrying around a phone, an mp3 player, and a psp/DS is over. Our pockets are FREE!

By Akrovah on 3/14/2011 7:05:11 PM , Rating: 3
Music players for kids whose parents don't think they are ready for a phone maybe? Basically just a modern replacement for the portable CD playres we had when we were kids.

Or how about just having a music player without the monthly data cost if you want a music player and a phone, but have no use for/interest in a smart phone (aka, me and my wife)?

As smartphones are still the minority of phone customers I think there is certainly still a decent market for portable music players.

By stm1185 on 3/14/2011 7:19:01 PM , Rating: 2
I was meaning the more expensive ones. Like the Zune HD or iPod Touch. I can see the sub $100 ones lasting a long time, especially in foreign markets.

I tend to think that if you did not want to spend the extra on the phone contract, then why you would you want to spend the extra on a Zune or iPod Touch over a Sandisk or Creative mp3 player which does its job at half or a 3rd of the cost.

By Akrovah on 3/14/2011 7:26:59 PM , Rating: 2
An excelent point.

By tigen on 3/14/2011 8:00:49 PM , Rating: 3
Well, Android and iOS have become a more general platform than just a phone OS. There are perfectly valid reasons to want a device like this without the phone function.

You can use an iPod touch or an iPad just for its own sake. They can also be used as interfaces/controllers for various other hardware devices.

You're not going to want to buy multiple phones. And some people may not want the phone version at all if they decide they don't need to pay high fees for mobile data every month.

By E7H3R on 3/14/2011 9:14:53 PM , Rating: 3
I would personally rather carry my ipod and my phone. If you play music, browse the web and play games on your phone the battery dies. Dead battery = no talkie(or texting). Until phones can go days without a recharge with heavy usage there is still going to be a market for other media devices.

By Belard on 3/15/2011 2:54:09 AM , Rating: 2
Because my rather nice Galaxy S phone, sucks up so much battery power that to use it as an MP3 device would make its already sucky battery life even worse.

For those who work-out at gyms, bike, outside, etc... A small and cheap $20~50 MP3 player does the job. if stolen or destroyd, not such a big deal.

By bodar on 3/15/2011 4:03:28 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. My Zune HD goes a LONG time between recharges and sounds much better than my EVO (doubletwist player), especially through my car's aux port. I much prefer having a single-purpose device for my music and the occasional podcast.

ZUNE - Born to fail
By Belard on 3/15/2011 3:29:42 AM , Rating: 2
Folks should review the old article about the ZUNE.

They were quite UGLY... they were "me-too" designed, but looked awkward, cheap and UGLY UGLY colors of BROWN, Tan and a dark-grey. And those old posts predict the failure of ZUNE.

Makes me wonder if MS hired the case designers of the ugly Amiga 4000/1200 computers (WHITE with brown highlights - PUKE)

Apple planned their iPod, iTunes, MacBook Pros, iPhone, iPad... etc.
Then you get MS, Samsung, Dell, HP, etc crap all over themselves to come out with a competing product and then scratch their heads in confusions when they spend 3-6 months to develop their own product.

I didn't want an iPhone, I bought a Galaxy S. I've played with an iPad2 and *I* sure wouldn't spend $500 for a Galaxy Tab! Maybe $250.

Even in Walmart: They have about 12 different iPods on display (various types and colors) and have one Zune.

Love my Zune
By Raiders12 on 3/15/2011 6:48:02 AM , Rating: 2
This is an unfortunate business decision. MS really had something going with Zune Pass and the Zune HD. The OLED screen is gorgeous, the device is solid and sleek, and the interface is simple. I bought my 32 GB for only $160 3 months ago and couldnt be happier, seeing how the equivalent Apple Ipod is $300.
Zune Pass is a fantastic service for $15, so I hope it continues on, which Im sure it will. For $15, unlimited music and keep 10 songs a month? The 10 songs alone would cost $10-12 on iTunes!
Everytime someone says, "Dude whats a Zune?" or "Wow who owns those?" I just laugh to myself because I'm not a tool in Apple's little fancy garage, and get the better deal with my music.

Long live the Zune HD.

Nailing it
By Tony Swash on 3/15/2011 7:00:18 AM , Rating: 2
As usual Asymco nails it. After reviewing some key points from the history of the struggle between Microsoft and Apple over media playback he has this to say:


The evolution of the bases of competition for media distribution between 1997, 2007 and 2011 is striking.

In 1997 the struggle was between specific modules (formats, players and technical standards.)

In 2007 the basis of competition was devices integrated with music services (which encompassed formats, standards and players).

By 2011 the competitive standard that the iOS ecosystem is putting forward is at an even higher level of integration. Not only are the sub-modules integrated into a whole, but now apps bespoke to a platform are attracting a virtuous cycle of third party innovation.

Now consider how the two protagonists evolved (or didn’t) during this 14 year saga.

Apple has maintained its attention steadfastly on products while Microsoft has maintained unwavering focus on the distribution and control over value chains. During the 1990s one strategy worked and the other didn’t. During the following decade they changed places. The locus of the two strategies did not change. What seems to have changed is what the market values.

So we have to ask: Is the end of the Zune a matter of poor execution or is the cause for failure something more profound? Is Microsoft’s real problem that they have prioritized that which is no longer valued?


By Arsynic on 3/15/2011 1:45:51 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft is ahead of the curve. Roughly 30% of Apple's profits come from iPhone sales with the standalone iPod business in the low teens. Even dumb phones are halfway decent media players these days.

Zune lives on in WP7. Zune was never a hardware product to begin with, it was a software platform that runs on PCs, Xbox 360 and most recently WP7. So Zune isn't dead by any means--there is just one less Zune platform. I won't be surprised if Apple wound down it's iPod business and just focus on selling cheap Shuffles and iPhones.

Too bad...
By Wolfpup on 3/15/2011 2:20:55 PM , Rating: 2
The Zune software doesn't work for podcasts the way I would need it to, and the Zune HD I'd never buy because it lacks hardware volume both of those issues would have to be fixed before I'd buy one, but still, it's sad to see it go, since it was the only thing attempting to really compete with the iPod (unless Samsung does a better job with their Galaxy S based Android player than I suspect they will).

HD to SD
By rburnham on 3/17/2011 7:59:22 PM , Rating: 2
I started with a Zune HD, but ended up trading it for an older Zune 120, and I swear this is the best portable media player I have ever seen. I will use this thing until it breaks. Cell phones do not have enough storage for my needs, plus my cell phone is pay-as-you-go, as I just don't use it much.

Show me a pay-as-you-go phone with the WP7 OS and enough storage for my stuff (about 60 gigs), and then I'll use a phone for media.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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