Microsoft's Zune was never much of a contender against Apple's iPod as far as portable music players go, and now, finally, the Zune hardware is dead.
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. So what does this mean for our current Zune users? Absolutely nothing. Your device will continue to work with Zune services just as it does today. And we will continue to honor the warranties of all devices for both current owners and those who buy our very last devices. Customer service has been, and will remain a top priority for us.
So there you have it. The Zune as hardware is finito, but the Zune lives on as an app, as a place to buy and consume music in Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.
The move to end production of Zune hardware was a long time coming as Microsoft hadn't updated its Zune player line since the release of the Zune HD in September 2009.
In March, reports began swirling that the Zune hardware was getting the ax, but at that time Microsoft neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.
But don't feel too sad for Bill Gates' iPod fighter. The Zune's influence on Microsoft has been a major one as the tech giant used the player's touchscreen software as an inspiration when it rebooted its mobile efforts with Windows Phone 7 last year.
Windows Phone 7 has, in turn, influenced the development of Windows 8 (for desktops, laptops and tablets) and even the ever-changing user interface of the Xbox 360. And so, the Zune can be given a bit of credit for contributing to the direction of the three of the company's most important products -- Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Upper photo: Some of Microsofts original Zune portable music player devices, released in 2006. Credit: Microsoft / AFP/Getty Images
Lower photo: Microsoft's Zune HD, released in 2009. Credit: Microsoft