Sunday, November 15, 2015

RIP Microsoft Zune

Today, the Microsoft Zune dies.

In the midst of a wave of terrorism - Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and any yet-to-be-named place - that seems to be enveloping the planet, it seems silly to be writing about an electronic gadget that either no one bought, or no one admits to having ever bought. It's trivial to the point of not being worth mentioning.

And yet, here I am writing about it. Because lots of ink, both virtual and real, is already being spilled about the terrible atrocities being committed in the name of some deity, by zealots interpreting rules concocted by men in caves thousands of years ago. And since I'm not going to fix it anytime soon, I may as well toss out a trivial-tech tidbit. Because if the men-in-caves have their way, we wouldn't have the right to share trivialities like these ever again.

So let's go off on a tangent, shall we?

Today is a momentous day in the annals of tech. On second thought, maybe not all that momentous. But still worth a quiet mention, because today is the day that all Zune services go dark. You haven't been able to buy a Zune device since 2012, but today is when all the online doodads that made these orphaned gadgets marginally useful will disappear for good.

Zune? Whazzat?

In 2006, Microsoft had a bright idea. It would introduce a portable media player that would allow anyone to listen to their music wherever they happened to be. Never mind that Apple had introduced the iPod fully five years earlier, and owned the PMP market with its devices and iTunes software and online store.

Nine years ago to the day, on a busy November afternoon in a Super Target just outside Denver, Colorado, I happened across workers setting up a Zune display for the soon-to-be-introduced device. Being the intrepid journalist/analyst/geek that I was and still am, I wanted a picture so that I could write about it here. The Target staff had other ideas, and thus began an in-store cat-and-mouse game that almost got me intro trouble with the retail rent-a-cops there.

I wrote about it here.

What struck me at the time was the insane amount of secrecy surrounding what was essentially a me-too device, and one that failed to offer anything new to a market that was pretty happy with its iPods.

So if you were one of the few who bought a Zune (brown? Seriously?) today's the day when any remaining online Zune services go dark. No more downloads, and no more streaming. The only thing your Zune can do now is play MP3s. And presumably keep the door stuck open on an otherwise hot and humid day.

If you're one of the seven non-Microsoft employees on the planet who still subscribe to Zune Music Pass, Microsoft will be happy to move you over to a Groove Music Pass plan for $9.99/month. Or you could just use Spotify or Apple Music on your smartphone. It is 2015, after all.

In the end, all that Zune-ish secrecy was for naught. Pity that. Wait, no: No pity at all, as the Zune was a punchline before it even went on sale. #WillNotBeMissed

1 comment:

Michael Manning said...

Carmi: I must confess that I have never heard of this device. But the thought hit me as I was reading your post how fascinating it would be to attend a "Tech 101 Day with Carmi Levy": an all day event for guys like me! You would teach, of course, and by the end of the day, everyone would be up to date on devices and apps. You would be an excellent guest speaker. ;)