Microsoft Zune, Second-Rate MP3 Player, Dies at Age 4

The portable listening device showed early promise, but never made it big

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Late Monday evening Microsoft announced the death of its ailing music listening device. "We recently announced that, going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players," read the brief notice on The device, age 4, would have celebrated its fifth birthday on November 16, 2006. The Zune had a short lived, but relatively successful career. If you consider second best an achievement.

Five years after the iPod changed the way humans listen to music, Microsoft decided to craft an iPod competitor. Not exactly too little too late, in its early life, it showed small signs of success. After launch, it ranked second to the iPod, reported Gizmodo.

Despite the fact that the Zune was only #18 on Amazon's sales chart (it's #17 now)—behind 12 varieties of iPods—Microsoft's doing quite well this holiday season. Statistics released by NPD Group says that while the iPod is still number one, the Zune's leapfrogged everyone else and claimed 9% of sales and 13% of total dollar share. Impressive, until you compare it to the iPod's 63% of sales and 72.5% of dollar share.

The Zune looked like Microsoft's Jessica Simpson to Apple's Britney Spears. It had a chance! But then came along the New Years glitch of 2009: Z2K9. At midnight on December 31, 2008 thousands of first generation Zune's froze. The Zune never recovered.

In May of 2008 Game Stop discontinued Zune players because of insufficient demand. By January 2009, Microsoft admitted the nobody really wanted the Zune, reported The Wall Street Journal. "Microsoft mentions a steep drop in Zune revenues in the holiday quarter compared to the same period the prior year. 'Zune platform revenue decreased $100 million or 54% reflecting a decrease in device sales,' notes the filing." In March of this year, Microsoft said it would no longer release new versions becaese of "tepid demand," reported Businessweek.

Yesterday, after a fake out, Microsoft officially announced the death of the Zune. And today we say goodbye to a star that burned bright, just not brightly enough.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.