MSFT to Kill Off Zune Hardware, Retain Software

Last month, there were some unpleasant rumors that Microsoft was about to kill off the Zune devices and retain the brand for media services on the company's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. Microsoft attempted to dispel such talk with a statement via its Facebook page that said Zune services were safe. The company insisted it wasn't killing off "any Zune services or features" but that still left room for speculation about the devices themselves.

Fast forward a month and the rumors have come back for round two with Bloomberg citing a source that says Microsoft will stop introducing new versions of the Zune "because of tepid demand." Instead, this source says Microsoft is going to focus on putting the Zune software onto other devices, such as phones running Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft is staying quiet, telling Bloomberg it has nothing to announce about another Zune device but remains committed to supporting Zune devices in North America. The company did, however, hint that we could soon see Zune services on WP7 and Xbox 360.

"We are thrilled by the consumer excitement for Zune across many new platforms, including Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360," Microsoft said in the emailed statement to Bloomberg.

"Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms."

So, Zune services are going to hit WP7 and Xbox 360 eventually, but what of the Zune's fate as far as hardware is concerned? Well, it doesn't take a genius to piece it all together. Though Microsoft has not confirmed plans to ditch the Zune as a device, the company has confirmed it has nothing to announce about another iteration of the Zune. And, while it's pledged to continue support for Zune devices in North America, Redmond's statement about continuing North American support leads one to believe other markets can forget about ever seeing the Zune on shelves.

Do you think Microsoft will ditch the Zune hardware? Let us know in the comments below!

Jane McEntegart works in marketing communications at Intel and was previously Manager of Content Marketing at ASUS North America. Before that, she worked for more than seven years at Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, holding such roles as Contributing Editor and Senior News Editor and writing about everything from smartphones to tablets and games consoles.

  • dragonsqrrl
    Wow, and so it finally happens... well, unofficially. Microsoft basically killed off the Zune HD five months after its release, so this is no surprise whatsoever. All I remember is getting marked down like crazy a year ago for suggesting basically the same thing as this article. I wasn't alone either, anyone with the time should have a quick look at the official Zune forums, it's not pretty.

    "because of tepid demand."
    LOL, it was never marketed to begin with. Has anyone here ever seen a Zune HD commercial? I'm not even sure I've ever seen an advert for one... anywhere. It probably doesn't help that software development for the device was locked from the get go, or that Microsoft basically killed off what little development existed for the device 5 months into its release.
  • STravis
    In essence, they had no idea how to market this device and had no idea how to attract customers.
  • jhansonxi
    The only problem with Zune was that it's not an iPod and only worked with Windows systems. They should have called it iZune.

    Realistically though, separate media players will eventually disappear as the functionality will be merged into cell phones. Consumer digital cameras may suffer the same fate.
  • beta tester
    Another Microsoft failure.

    If Zune failed, then it's inevitable that the Zune phone (Windows Phone 7) will fail.

    Both late to market. Poorly executed. Not sold in all regions of the world. Unwanted by the public. Always destined for failure.
  • g-thor
    If they kill off the hardware and only support the software, let's hope they are smart enough to not lock it into WP7 only. I would be very happy to see a viable alternative to iTunes for my computer and Android phone. I've never taken to the iTunes interface.
  • 11796pcs
    STravis- you hit it right on the money- you would have to be a diehard Microsoft fan to have even heard of the Zune. Microsoft didn't do anything to advertise the Zune. How do you expect to sell anything if no one knows about your product? In the meantime Apple is going crazy with the iPod to the extent that everyone knows its name. You can't throw a device on the market and just expect it to catch on. Microsoft should have made it competitive with the iPod. Sell it for nothing and get a userbase. Do some of those ads that Apple does where they showcase a couple of apps for the iPhone that everyone oohs and ahhs at. EVEN IF THEY COPYED AND PASTED APPLE'S COMMERCIALS AND REPLACED IPOD WITH ZUNE THEY WOULD STILL BE DOING A BETTER JOB THEN THEY ARE CURRENTLY DOING TO MARKET THE ZUNE. It's almost like they design their products to fail because they put such lack of effort into marketing them.
  • soundefx
    I didn't see this one coming. I thought that they were doing ok.
  • zoemayne
    dam i was gonna get one cause the price dropped nicely
  • starryman
    I swear I thought the Zune was on the clearance rack last year. I guess I was wrong but I guess now it's official that it's dead.
  • eklipz330
    "ALL consumer electronics products have a lifespan, and the Zune HD is 18mo old. We were completely frank about this year's Zune hardware being the WP7 phones, and we continue to both sell and fully support the Zune HD line of products. And as I've promised – we continue to bring new apps and games to the platform. More of those are in the works, I promise you."

    -Dave McLauchlan, Senior Business Development Manager for Zune