While Microsoft has yet to officially acknowledge it, it appears that the Zune hardware family is now dead. Bloomberg is reporting the device is dead and, in fact, a visit to the Zune.Net website seems to confirm this news. The rotating graphic on the Zune.Net home page no longer features the Zune HD hardware. Instead, it shows the PC, Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox.
This should come as no surprise: Zune hardware has not exactly killed the iPod (any model) nor has it set the world on fire. It does have a loyal following and the HD received very good reviews. It is a nice device, far and away better than any other similar device on the market. The Zune Marketplace, however, has begun to catch on, thanks to the Xbox.
Xbox integration has been key to the service’s success. A recent report shows that the video rentals and purchases have outpaced any other service, including iTunes.
Much of the Zune hardware functionality has been rolled into the Windows Phone 7 family. Indeed, one look at the user interface and media player features of Windows Phone 7 will show just how much the Zune influenced Windows Phone 7.
While the loss of the player hardware is devastating to the platform, it does not spell the end of the Zune services. Those will live on as well as the hardware features which are now part of Windows Phone 7. Microsoft did the right thing in killing the hardware. Why continue down that road when they have a superior phone platform? (thought a phoneless phone, like the iPod Touch, probably has some legs.)
One thing is not clear: what happens to the name? According to Windows guru, Paul Thurrot, the service will lose the Zune branding and become something else, likely with ‘Xbox’ in the title. Since Xbox has more recognition than Zune, it is probably a good idea, though it could serve to confuse those who have started to use the service on the Xbox.
I will continue using my Zune HD until it does not work any longer or I get a Zune Phone, or, rather, a Windows Phone 7 phone. See what I did there?