If for some reason you own and still use a Zune MP3 player, it’s about to get less useful as Microsoft discontinues the device’s online services.
Microsoft says it will retire all Zune services on November 15, 2015. That means users will no longer be able to download or stream music to the MP3 player from the Zune Marketplace or the Zune Music Pass subscription service.
The Zune hardware will still function as a basic MP3 player, so users can load songs onto it for local playback. However, Microsoft warns that music protected by digital rights management may not play “if the license can’t be renewed.”
As for Zune Music Pass subscriptions, those will automatically switch to Microsoft’s Groove Music Service between October 15 and November 15, at a rate of $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Annual and three-month subscribers may get partial refunds for unused time on their old subscriptions. Unfortunately, users won’t be able to keep up to 10 free tracks per month, as they could with Zune Music Pass.
Groove Music Pass is a modern successor to Zune Music Pass, with support for iOS, Android, Windows, Xbox, and the web. Microsoft has also just added Sonos support, so users can listen on their whole-home speakers. It includes millions of streaming songs on demand, along with radio stations and the ability to stream your own music through OneDrive cloud storage.
Why this matters: Microsoft stopped producing Zune hardware roughly four years ago and dismantled the Zune brand a year later, instead using “Xbox” as an entertainment catch-all. The hardware never posed much of a threat to Apple’s iPod—Microsoft had sold 2 million units as of 2008, compared to millions of iPods sold per month—so the number of people still relying on Zune services must be minuscule by now. If anything, it’s surprising and somewhat impressive that Microsoft has kept those services alive all this time.