Microsoft finally confirmed on Monday that it is no longer manufacturing Zune devices. But despite what some might say, Zune itself is not dead. The Redmond software giant has turned its focus to the Zune software and bringing its three screens and a cloud vision to fruition. Zune powers the Music + Video experience on Windows Phone and Xbox 360, and it provides a premiere media experience on Windows PCs with the Zune software client.
“We recently announced that, going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players. So what does this mean for our current Zune users? Absolutely nothing. 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. Customer service has been, and will remain a top priority for us.”
This, of course, has been Microsoft’s strategy for over a year now. Dave McLauchlan, the former Senior Business Development Manager for Zune, said as much back in March. Windows Phone provides an excellent media experience. It’s not perfect–better integration with the Zune Social would certainly be appreciated–but it’s nearly there.
The only real issue here is for those who can’t or won’t pay for a smartphone and the associated data plans. Smartphone adoption is rapidly rising, but it’s no replacement for a dedicated portable media player. Unfortunately, PMPs as a whole have been struggling as of late. The Zune HD is still available for purchase online, but we don’t know how long it will remain that way. Those interested in a Zune HD are encouraged to pick one up right away. The Zune players will continue to function as normal, and Microsoft’s collection of free high-quality apps will remain available for download. We’d like to see a phone-less Windows Phone, but it’s not going to come from Microsoft, as it is hesitant to compete with its partners.
One thing, however, is for sure: the Zune software and services will continue to live on. Microsoft re-awarded three Zune MVPs on October 1, including our very own Grahm Skee. The company wouldn’t do that if it planned to shut things down. Zune on Windows Phone will continue to improve with each update, and the next Xbox 360 dashboard will have a renewed focus on integrated media experiences through Zune. Microsoft introduced a more competitive Zune Music Pass on Monday, adding support for free streaming music videos and finally bringing the service to Canada. Zune even powers the music experience on Bing, letting searchers play entire songs for free.
We’ll miss the Zune players, but the future is bright for the Zune software and services. The Zune played a huge role in shaping the future of Microsoft, defining the Metro design language that can now be found in Windows Phone, Xbox 360, and Windows 8. The software and services will continue to live on in these products, powering a compelling Music + Video experience like no other. It’s looking good indeed.