The Zune HD was a solid piece of hardware, but too late to make a dent in the iPod's market share.

Microsoft has been sending mixed messages about the future of its standalone Zune music hardware over the past several months, to say the least.

Back in March, the company downplayed a report that it was discontinuing the Zune hardware line, but didn’t explicitly deny it. More recently, Microsoft called the Zune HD’s removal from the Zune website a mistake.

Last week, a Zune support page confirmed that Microsoft plans to stop producing the dedicated Zune music players — while maintaining the Zune music service for Windows Phone, existing Zune players and other devices. But then Microsoft’s official Zune Support account on Twitter said it didn’t have any info about the discontinuation.

Confused? Us, too. But in case there was any doubt, the latest episode of Microsoft’s official Windows Phone Radio podcast makes it clear, once and for all, that Zune HD will no longer be produced. Here’s a quick transcript of Windows Phone marketing manager Brian Seitz (a former member of the Zune team) and Microsoft Interactive Entertainment program manager Matt Akers discussing the Zune HD.

Seitz: There was the … announcement that we’re not going to be making the Zune HD anymore, which is a bummer. It’s a great device, I know there’s a lot of fans out there. But it helped blaze a trail for where we’re going with the phone in terms of the design, and showed that there is a real desire inside of Microsoft to build beautiful things that work really well for people, and have a common identity from a visual standpoint and how it actually works. The good thing is that a lot of that learning and the things that made the Zune HD awesome are actually in your Windows Phone now. The world is definitely moving to a place where people are looking to their phone to do a lot more of the heavy lifting in the entertainment department. … Windows Phone is right there with the best of them for that, and we owe that to a lot of the work that was done through Zune.

Akers: The thing I always say to people, too, is just because we don’t make them any more doesn’t mean yours is going to stop working. Yours is going to keep on trucking … and you’ve got all the greatness that’s been put into Windows Phone, too, so that if you want that mobile solution to continue on indefinitely then you’ve got that functionality there. But mine (Zune HD) is near and dear to me, baby.

Seitz: Yeah. Me, too. As someone who worked on Zune and the Zune Insider podcast, and the blog back in the day, I’d just say thanks to everyone for their support. It was phenomenal.

Akers: Yeah, I got choked up when we had the last episode last week. It was definitely bittersweet for me. We’re on to big things and it’s great, but I hope that those folks who enjoyed the Zune Insider podcast have flocked over to this podcast.

Listen here to the full episode of Windows Phone Radio show.

GeekWire Archive: Fond memories of Microsoft Zune … in brown, of course

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Guest

    Kudos to Microsoft for identifying a market shift away from dedicated Personal Independent Music Players (PIMPs) towards smarter phones. This is a wise use of resources to focus on winning the future (Windows Phone 7 being positioned to capture much of the Zune revenue) and iterating on services (feasting on the corpse of Rhapsody) rather than developing products that were relevant only in the past.

    • Guest

      Lol. Every failure is really a success.

  • Guest

    Yeah, the mixed messages are embarrassing. It reinforces the now popular perception of a company that is in disarray. If they can’t get the messaging right on something this simple it doesn’t bode well for their execution overall. Frank Shaw should have been all over this.

    And the message seem to be a semantic game anyway. Best I can tell the hardware is dead, as expected for a long time. They just maintain support for a while longer, like they do for other dead products.

    Zune had a lot of potential that was never realized. MS brought it to market half complete and then failed to maintain the upgrade pace. In hindsight, they should have open sourced the software and let others enhance it or built an app store. That might have had a chance. And then maybe Apple would have been thrown off their game a bit and had to respond. Instead, Apple probably never lost a second’s focus and went on to deliver iPhone and iPad, destroying MS’s long standing position in both the mobile and tablet markets.

    Unfortunately this story isn’t unique. It’s become an all too frequent occurrence there under Ballmer. And the worst part is that he seems completely incapable of stopping it.

  • Josè Daniel

    A bummer we never got to see the apocryphal Zune HD2 (which some people say it’s WP7 actually) Long live Zune!

  • Sheeds

    It was an absolute stuff-up. Very poor form, and a shocking way for the device to bow out – I feel bad for the whole Zune Team (except managers) for how this happened.

    The accidental posting of the discontinuation of manufacture webpage, the denial (to me) over twitter and “error” line over twitter, then the ignomony of death by podcast 30sec announcement.

    My original post on Zune – with screenshots
    Updated post confirmng death earlier:

    Very sad.

    • Guest

      It’s worse than sad. It should be unacceptable. It should get the Division president called on the carpet to explain. But this is MS, so nobody is held accountable and no message will be sent internally which might prevent a recurrence.

      Rinse. Repeat.

Job Listings on GeekWork