Sometimes you just can’t shake a bad rap. It’s been a slow descent into a sad demise for the Zune media player, Microsoft’s stumbling attempt to steal the iPod’s thunder.
A report from Bloomberg says that Microsoft has put an end to hardware production for the Zune and will focus instead on rebranding itself as a multimedia software service. Microsoft will continue to sell existing versions of the Zune, but won’t introduce new ones.
A company representative issued the following statements to Bloomberg:
"We have nothing to announce about another Zune device – but most recently have introduced Zune HD to Canada via the Zune Originals store and remain committed to supporting our devices in North America."
"We are thrilled by the consumer excitement for Zune across many new platforms, including Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360. Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms."
The news doesn’t isn’t shocking to friends or foes of the player, which evolved from an unattractive first-generation product to a beautiful HD device, but it remains disappointing to iPod defectors and Apple holdouts. That leaves Microsoft empty-handed in the media player wars, with no equivalent to the iPod or iPod Touch available. The current near-total ubiquity of the iPod is now free and clear to completely dominate the market, with no active competition cutting into profits.
The Zune HD was introduced in the fall of 2009, and was expected to build a solid base of competition against Apple’s iPod touch business by combining an OLED screen, NVIDIA Tegra processor, HD Radio and a new gaming platform intended to leverage Microsoft’s Xbox 360. However, it completely failed to do so.
Zune HD already exists as the music and movies service available on Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7, so the plug hasn’t been pulled completely just yet. The Zune desktop software will still continue to serve as the way for Windows Phone 7 owners to synchronize their devices.