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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.

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