Gone too Zune: We mirror on Microsoft's failed music undertaking
You would be forgiven for considering Zune died a very long time in the past. Microsoft stopped making new hardware years in the past. And in 2012 it formally pivoted from the “Zune” branding and launched Xbox Music. And that has since develop into Groove. However Zune providers have quietly continued to be obtainable to these stubbornly clinging to their Microsoft music gamers and their Music Cross. Sadly, with Zune providers shutting down on November fifteenth, these final vestiges of the model will disappear for good. So it appeared nearly as good a time as any for the Engadget employees to mirror on their reminiscences of the Zune.
I as soon as “gained” a Zune in an internet raffle. I used to be fairly stoked, till it arrived. The Zune was despatched from the US, and I (on the time) lived within the UK. To gather my “prize” I needed to pay about $60 in import taxes. The worst half was that I ended up by no means utilizing it. Not as soon as. I feel I turned it on, checked it out, however by no means obtained round to loading it with any music. It then lived in a drawer for a number of years. In truth, I assumed it was nonetheless on this condominium someplace. However my vital different thinks I bought it a few yr or so in the past. Information to me, I solely hope I acquired my a refund.
I am no Apple fanatic, however even I dismissed the Zune as Microsoft desperately making an attempt to hitch the then-booming music and media participant markets. A reputation that stood out mixed with preliminary hardware that did not can be a recipe for catastrophe, I figured. However I knew MS might design good hardware — my Sidewinder gamepad survived school, in any case. It will simply take time.
With 2009’s Zune HD, I knew Microsoft had lastly executed it. A stunning system with a vibrant OLED display and delightful UI, it grabbed my consideration instantly. At launch, it wasn’t even on cabinets on the native Greatest Purchase. I noticed some tucked away in a lockbox — not a superb signal for a launch. When an worker retrieved one for me, his lips stated, “Right here you go,” however his eyes stated, “Dude. No. Please.”
However I beloved it. I loaded up songs, movies and the tiny handful of apps out there (Venture Gotham and Audiosurf have been favorites). I took my first steps into the world of podcasts, particularly the Zune Insider Podcast. In reality, in a single episode, hosts Jessica Zahn and Matt Akers mentioned the profession paths they took to turning into full-time Microsoft staff. That episode impressed me to attempt my hand within the tech business — particularly as a recreation tester. Surprisingly, the talents I picked up there immediately helped me right here, as Engadget’s copy editor.
So thanks, Zune HD. I’ll not have ended up the place I’m in the present day if I did not fall for the attractive gadget with the foolish identify.
When Microsoft introduced an iPod competitor, I could not have been happier. I used to be in school, and Mac merchandise have been all over the place. I could not enter a lecture corridor with out dealing with the glow of a dozen Apple logos, and each twentysomething on campus wore white earbuds in-between courses. As a excessive-and-mighty PC gamer, I used to be higher than them. My hardware value much less and did extra — and the Zune introduced me with the right alternative to rub their smug, fashionable computing decisions of their faces. I stored my eyes open, discovered a great sale and nabbed myself a primary-era Zune 30.
The Zune was every little thing I needed it to be. It was a counter-tradition (to me, at the very least) MP3 participant with loads of area, neat magnetic headphones and hardware buttons I might manipulate by way of my pocket. I used to be smug for months, however it did not final. It was a pleasant music participant, nevertheless it had issues. Dangerous desktop software program, a relatively meager music library and software program updates that usually made issues worse. I keep in mind the thrill of studying that the Zune model was coming to Xbox Reside, after which the intestine-dropping disappointment once I discovered I could not handle my MP3 participant’s library from my recreation console. I liked the Zune, however every thing it did felt like a half measure. We had some good occasions collectively (heck, I even subscribed to Zune Cross for a yr!), however I do not miss it.
Because it seems, my time as a Zune subscriber ran far longer than my time as a Zune proprietor. I misplaced my yellow media participant in Vegas not lengthy after I bought it, however in a pre-Spotify world, the Zune Cross subscription gave me all of the music I needed within the place the place I listened to it (on my PC). It is easy to say that Microsoft’s plan was forward of its time as you take a look at all of the subscription music choices at present obtainable, however I feel the timing was good. The large issues have been a complicated software program setup that could not beat out iTunes, and media gamers that weren’t any cheaper than the iPods that have been already in style. Attempt discovering a Zune-prepared dock in any lodge room — it isn’t going to occur. Confusing advertisements claiming it prices $30,000 to fill an iPod as an alternative of simply specializing in what was good about Zune did not assist both, nevertheless it’s all too late now. My lasting reminiscence of the period should stay these Zune-sponsored live shows that introduced Widespread and N.E.R.D. to city for reasonable, and have been my first reminder that I used to be getting a bit previous to go to stay exhibits. Good luck Groove — you will want it.
I’ve had many moveable music gamers through the years — together with the Rio Karma and Toshiba Gigabeat (an early Microsoft Moveable Media Middle system) — however the Zune lineup holds a really particular place in my coronary heart. They proved that Microsoft might one-up Apple’s iPod in some ways, particularly when it got here to navigating via hundreds of songs. The Zune HD, even to this present day, is a surprisingly glossy and engaging system. The one drawback? They got here approach too late, lengthy after Apple had cemented the iPod’s dominance. And the Zune HD got here proper in the midst of the iPhone’s rise — who cares a few touchscreen media participant when the iPhone might achieve this rather more?
Nicely, I did. Within the early days of smartphones, battery life was notably valuable, and it by no means made a lot sense to empty such a mission-crucial system simply to pay attention to some tunes. Whereas my iPhone was all the time in my proper pocket, the Zune HD occupied my left pocket for years. And as a lifelong Home windows consumer, I most popular having a media participant that labored natively with Home windows (and helped me keep away from opening iTunes till I completely wanted to). Ultimately, smartphone batteries received higher, and I additionally began counting on streaming providers like Spotify extra for my music. Someday I noticed I might match my favourite private music on my telephone, together with some selection offline Spotify playlists, and I ultimately stopped carrying the Zune round.
It now sits in my desk drawer. Sometimes, I boot it up and marvel how the Zune would have fared if it did not have a foolish identify, and if it got here a couple of years earlier. No less than Microsoft managed to do one thing with the Zune’s design work. It morphed into Home windows Telephone, and ultimately bled into Home windows eight and Home windows 10. In the meantime, I am nonetheless ready for a Zune Telephone — besides now we’re calling it a Floor Telephone.
Earlier than there was Bing or Google+, there was Zune.
It was the butt of extra nerd jokes than you might probably think about. But when I am trustworthy, I kinda needed one. Particularly that first-gen brown mannequin. It had one thing the iPod all the time lacked — character. Positive, it was a bit of boxy and a bit odd, however it was distinctive and delightful in its personal unusual approach. The slight translucent glow of inexperienced across the earthy brown was delicate, however simply noticeable sufficient to catch your eye. It was the right reply to Apple’s clear-room industrial design.
However, I ended up shopping for an iPod. Why? As a result of the Zune solely got here in 30GB. And for me that was the deal breaker. I wanted that 80GBs of storage. Sorry Zune.
- Key specs
- <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/microsoft/zune/hd/” title=”Microsoft Zune HD evaluations” goal=”_blank”> Critiques • 141 </a>
- Sort Audio / video participant
- Media sort Inner storage (sixteen GB, Flash)
- Audio playback time as much as 33 hours
- Video playback time as much as eight.5 hours
- Audio codec help AAC, MP3, WMA
- Dimensions four.08 x 2.07 x zero.35 in
- Weight 2.6 oz
- Discontinued 2011-03-14