Given the lackluster success of the Zune
line over the years, would anyone really be shocked if Microsoft pulled the plug? We sort of doubt it, and according to reports, the company may be on the verge of doing so. Numerous sites are noticing that Microsoft
executives have been hesitant to use the Zune word in discussions, and it's unusual for Microsoft to distance themselves from something they care about dearly and/or are spending valuable marketing resources on.
As for the Zune's future? It's all up in the air for now. There could be a rebranding, or there could be an outright execution. With Nokia now in the mix, there's even an outlandish possibility that Ovi Music technology could take the place of the Zune brand. There's no question that the Zune name is recognizable in the inner circle of tech followers, but outside in the mainstream consumer world, it's pretty much iPod or nothing. Even SanDisk's CEO said years back that it was impossible to "out iPod the iPod," and so far, that quote has proven accurate.
Microsoft isn't one to hold back on killing things that aren't working. The Kin line of phones was abolished shortly after launch, and considering that we've seen a lot more iPod/iPhone commercials of late than Zune ones, we wouldn't be surprised if the rumor mill proved accurate here too. According to ZDNet, this is Microsoft's response to a question about the Zune's future:
"“We’re not ‘killing’ any of the Zune services/features in any way. Microsoft remains committed to providing a great music and video experience from Zune on platforms such as Xbox LIVE, Windows-based PCs, Zune devices and Windows Phone 7, as well as integration with Bing and MSN.”
That's easy to say for now, but will this still be true in a month? A year? It's tough to say, but each and every day that Microsoft chooses to ignore the Zune, the iPod is pulling farther and farther ahead.