March 15, 2011

‘iPod Killer’ Zune Dying Quietly

At the height of the music-player wars in 2006, Microsoft Corp. released its "iPod Killer" Zune music player. Despite some initial excitement by fans of Microsoft, the knockout blows never reached Apple's iPod.

"We can beat them, but it's not going to be easy," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a November 2006 interview regarding its entertainment device.

"Hundreds of millions" Microsoft executive Robbie Bach, then president of the entertainment and devices business, was the amount claimed the company planned to invest in the Zune and its software.

The stylish device had several impressive features. Monthly unlimited music streaming was a feature that the iPod did not offer and prices near one-third cheaper than its primary rival. However the Zune came five years too late, according to many tech reviewers, to unseat Apple's commanding lead in the music market, Reuters is reporting.

Microsoft has not formally announced an end to production of the Zune, but has not updated the device significantly since 2009 with the release of the Zune HD. A recently released statement to Winrumors, a tech blog, emphasizes the Zune software.

"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."

Concentrating on having Zune software loaded onto mobile phones, such as those running its Windows operating system, Microsoft is looking to gain market share it has recently ceded to Google and Apple.

Microsoft, in 2009, split the Zune team into software and hardware groups, letting the software people focus more on other platforms, such as phones, the Xbox video-game console and personal computers.

The tech giant claims the Zune software has become a key feature in its redesigned Windows mobile-phone operating system when it went on sale in October, Bloomberg reports.


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