Zune hardware killed off but what about the software?

By Tom Warren, on 14th Mar 11 8:37 pm with 18 Comments

Microsoft Zune

News reports on Monday suggest that Microsoft is killing its hardware line of Zune music players, but what about the software?

Bloomberg’s Dina Bass claims that a source has confirmed that Microsoft has killed its Zune music players. The news is hardly surprising and has been a long time coming for Microsoft. WinRumors recently reported that Microsoft is planning to merge some Zune services into the Windows Live brand but it appears the changes go deeper than that. Microsoft was originally quick to respond and state that the company isn’t “killing any of the Zune services/features in any way.”

Zune hardware may not be going away altogether though. WinRumors understands that the software giant has been mulling licensing the Zune software, with its Metro UI, to third parties under an official OEM agreement. The agreement would allow third parties to manufacturer devices running Microsoft’s Zune software, whether device manufacturers plan to create hardware is another story.

WinRumors asked Microsoft about the latest reports of Zune devices being killed and a company spokesperson sent the following statement:

“We have nothing to announce about another Zune device – but most recently have introduced Zune HD to Canada via Zune Originals store and remain committed to supporting our devices in North America. We are thrilled by the consumer excitement for Zune across many new platforms, including Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360. Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms.”

Microsoft recently reorganized the Zune team structure. Microsoft split the hardware and software Zune teams into separate units. Microsoft’s reorg ultimately points to the demise of the Zune brand over time. Separately, WinRumors has learned that Microsoft is planning to make use of Nokia’s Ovi services and blend these into Windows Live. Andy Lees, President of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, spoke at a financial analyst briefing during Mobile World Congress in February. Lees explained the Nokia deal. “It includes search revenue transfer, advertising revenue transfer, location-based services revenue transfer, royalty payments for software, and it includes joint marketing” said Lees.

Microsoft has been suspiciously quiet around Zune and Zune services over the past few months. The software giant’s Zune Video service gained over 50% more market share in 2010 compared to 2009, thanks to an international launch of the Zune Marketplace. Microsoft made Zune Video available in October to additional regions including Europe, Asia and Australia. Despite the expansion, Microsoft’s Zune services aren’t widely known outside of the United States. Microsoft’s marketing teams have spent little time and money on promoting Zune and the focus appears to be solely on Windows Phone. Whatever is planned for Zune, we should know more at MIX11 in April. Joe Belfiore, who is responsible for any forthcoming generations of Zune devices, is keynoting at the event.

  • Anonymous

    The hardware while dated by todays standards, still looks and feels impressive. For being one of the first devices with Nvidia’s Tegra chip and an OLED screen with Gorilla Glass, it continues to have enough performance to keep it from feeling old. The lack of Marketing is what gets me the most. (Being a Marketing Graduate I look to one day help Microsoft in this area with future offerings). I continue to use my simple 16G HD every day on my commute and while I do find the lack of BT to be a minor annoyance at times when I would like to go wireless (Which my Sprint HTC Arrive should cover), I continue to enjoy the fantastic audio quality and show it to friends whenever it catches their eye. (Most often people love the light weight, size, and the quality feel.

    I do hope they inject a new piece of hardware into the Zune brand to continue the PMP offering. A Zune HD 2 with BT and GPS, possibly a bigger screen, and refreshed yet similar look, combined with some great marketing could make it a fantastic hit similar to the iTouch with the iPhone. Allowing it to use Windows Phone apps would make it an even better offering.

    The Zune HD has had some interesting injections from Microsoft recently as stated by being released in Canada finally and also silently getting a good number of new apps and games in its own marketplace.

    • Anonymous

      I completely agree with you. I really enjoy my 16GB Zune HD as well and use it everyday on my commute and when I’m working out/running. I hate that I recently purchased my wife one now that they’re killing it. I’m hoping that like you said they’ll bring back the Zune HD 2 that leaked late last year possibly under a different name with BT, GPS, and larger screen. The lack of a marketplace for the Zune HD in my opinion was a huge hinderance, releasing one or two apps every two to three months is ridiculous.

      I’ll be standing at the door this Sunday to purchase my Arrive for me and my wife. Really disappointed in Sprint’s lack of marketing and information for this device however. Been to the Sprint store twice to preorder and they look at me like I’m retarded. They have no idea what the device is and don’t even have the gift cards to allow me to preorder. Unacceptable in my book.

  • GP007

    Not making more hardware is one thing (we have WP7 now etc) but the software and by extention the service should stay as “Zune” imo. What I’d be ok with is for some of the Live Apps taking over some of the jobs instead of adding them into the Zune client software. Best example is having Live Photo Galary fully support WP7 for picture management instead of going through the Zune software like it does now.

    Another thing is add support for WP7 document sync through Live Mesh so we don’t have to email docs to our devices. This should be simple and just makes sense to me. The Zune client itself should not try to turn into a bloated mess like iTunes. It should stay light and be focused on media sync and apps/games. They need to rework the WP7 marketplace side of it, add some more options around that like a single place where one can go and quickly redownload and install everything they had on the phone to that point incase they have to do a reset.

    Still it would’ve been nice to see a Zune tablet IMO.

  • http://twitter.com/ThelVadumee mike montgomery

    i still wand a zune hd

    • Anonymous

      Find a Refurbished 16G ZuneHD for around $100-120. Great bang for the buck if you can’t shell out for a full priced new one (with custom engraving now ;).

  • http://twitter.com/TheRackow Andrew Rackow

    With all these comments coming from Microsoft, I wish you could do an interview with a Microsoft employee (not from PR, a tech person) and get the actual details on the future… these stupid round-about comments are useless.

    • GP007

      That would be best but they can’t talk, unless it’s on the hush hush without names being used. We’ll really just have to wait and see what they do officially.

  • http://twitter.com/karlcramer Karl Cramer

    What the market would respond to is a Windows Phone 7 without the phone part. Much like the iPod Touch and the iPhone. Zune as a music and video service is terrific and should be included in all Microsoft systems from phones to game systems to computers.

  • http://www.theproweb.co.cc ThePro

    The sad thing about the Zune HD, was that it never got sold in countries other then the US and Canada, and yes, there was close to none marketing for it.

  • http://twitter.com/efjay01 Ef Jay

    Another one’s been Kinned!! :)

  • Anonymous

    Zune+windows live mesh= music in the cloud

  • Guest

    Another failure for Ballmer to add to his resume.

  • http://twitter.com/StefEBear Stefan R. G.

    how could it compete when Zune Hardware and Zune services are crippled everywhere?
    Only US/Canada (and now UK) have access..
    MS I’m afraid they did this to themselves by not going global.. lets hope they hurry up and get Zune Services Global to save WP7……………

    • GP007

      If you can’t get a deal with the content holders to stream/sell their media in other contries it doesn’t matter how much you want to. I’m guessing MS can’t get the deals in place it needs due to either costs or a combination of costs and time.

    • Carlos

      Well, WP7 isn’t global either, so the odds of that happening with Zune are probably slightly less than hell freezing over tomorow.

  • http://www.technokyle.com kyle

    My excitement over music/video players are not that big compared before. Smartphones are becoming amazingly powerful such as the difference between the two devices are blurred by the other(Smartphones). Although a good example of market potential are people who wants the App only devices like the iTouch is still a good ground for milking money it would cost microsoft something since the platform running on the device is different.

  • http://openid.tomservo.eu/ Tom Servo

    The software’s gotten pretty stale, too. Since over a year, nothing changed feature wise, apart from the least amount of WP7 support that had to be added. There were so much feature requests and complaints on the Zune forums, when they were still up, and so much more on MS Answers currently, there’s plenty that could be added and improved, and released more often than almost never, like right now. It’s like they don’t even want to try.

  • Lamb113

    Personally i await a WP7 with the same build quality as the Zune. I dont understand why Microsoft didnt do that in the first place. I think that is the problem with being so big it takes ages for the wheels to turn.
    In the meantime i await a WP7 phone with the same build quality as the Nokia N8 this is not difficult and Microsoft just need to get going.