To the surprise of many people, Zune Originals closed its doors at the beginning of July. The service offered customized Zune devices in a variety of colors engraved with unique artwork, the customer’s Xbox LIVE Avatar, or a few lines of text. Many orders also came with a free AC adapter. Zune Originals, originally launched on November 13, 2007, was one of the services that set Zune apart from the competition.
But all things eventually come to an end. Microsoft never released figures, but sales of the customized devices were likely lower than the Redmond-based software giant had hoped. Many of the customizations were free of charge, but some cost as much as $25. That, combined with the longer wait time and full retail price, made purchasing a stock Zune device from one of Microsoft’s retail partners a cheaper and faster alternative.
The closure of Zune Originals, however, does not mean that the Zune service is on its way out. Zune is an ecosystem, not a device. Dave McLauchlan, the Senior Business Development Manager for Zune, has made it very clear that “this year’s Zune hardware [is] Windows Phone.”
In fact, portable music players on the whole seem to be on the decline. Wired recently published an article questioning if the iPod might be on its deathbed. Sales have fallen in recent years, with analysts predicting a decrease of 7.2% over the last few months. Apple, like Microsoft, might be preparing to move customers over to its smartphone platform.
Zune devices, particularly the Zune HD, will still be available at online and brick-and-mortar retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. In the words of Zune MVP Marques Lyons, “if you have a Zune HD, enjoy it. If you don’t but want one, go grab one.” The closure of Zune Originals is disappointing, but Zune devices are still available wherever fine media players are sold.
On a related note, one of our fellow CrowdGather sites, ZuneBoards, is giving away four framed pieces of Zune Originals artwork. Head on over there for more details.