Microsoft To "Stop Producing" The Zune; The iPod Slays Another

And just like that, on the eve of Apple's iPhone 5 event, the Zune was no more. Microsoft's valiant effort into the world of portable media players seemed to have a snowball's chance in summer at making it, even from the start. Despite a huge marketing effort and a name like Microsoft, trying to crush the iPod, or even match it, seems to be a fool's game at this point. Years back, an astute SanDisk CEO uttered that you "can't out-iPod the iPod." He tried. SanDisk attempted to come out with a wide range of PMPs, none of which reached even a small amount of the success garnered by the iPod.

But Microsoft, of all companies, had the best shot. The Zune and the Zune HD were decent players, but they simple were never viewed as being on par (or superior) to the iPod. A lot of it probably had to do with general perception, and the smoothness of iOS was helped greatly by the advent of the App Store. Microsoft never had a match. This week, the company made a terse announcement that essentially confirms the death of the Zune as we know it. Here's the note in full:
"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. So what does this mean for our current Zune users? Absolutely nothing. Your device will continue to work with Zune services just as it does today. And we will continue to honor the warranties of all devices for both current owners and those who buy our very last devices. Customer service has been, and will remain a top priority for us."

Will any company ever be able to match the iPod? We can only hope. As great as iOS and the iPod family is, the technology world is a sad one when there's no real competition. Someone excelled in this market before Apple, and most pundits didn't give Apple's original iPod a shot at dominating due to a proprietary port and high cost. But succeed it did. What'll be the next big thing to rival the iPod? Or, with the proliferation of smartphones that play music, has that ship sailed?