Microsoft will make no more Zune music players, building its future music strategy on applications incorporated in its Windows Phone and Xbox platforms, the company has confirmed.
Rumors circulated in March that Microsoft planned to stop making dedicated music players, but the company ducked the issue then, saying this year’s new Zune devices would be mobile phones running Zune software. It went on to release a trickle of applications for the Zune platform later in the year.
The company has now updated a help page at Zune.net to announce: “We will no longer be producing Zune players.” Instead, the page said: “Going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy.”
However, this will make no difference to current Zune users, the company said on the support page: “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.”
Microsoft launched the first Zune players and Zune Marketplace music store on Nov. 14, 2006, as a challenge to Apple’s iPod player and iTunes music store.
However, Apple moved the goalposts a couple of months later with its Jan. 9, 2007, announcement of the iPhone, a widescreen iPod that could also make phone calls and surf the Web.
It took Microsoft three years to follow suit. When it announced Windows Phone in February 2010, one of the features of the new mobile OS was a Zune music player app. It’s also possible to access Zune music and video via Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online service for its Xbox 360 game console.
Sales of the Zune have consistently trailed far behind those of the iPod. While not a definitive ranking, the list of best-selling MP3 players at Amazon.com is telling: Nine of the 10 best sellers are iPods (Sandisk has a $40 Sansa model in eighth place) and the first Zune device now appears at number 24, preceded by 16 iPod variants.