End of an era: Microsoft finally lays Zune music player to rest

Microsoft has officially pulled the plug on its Zune music player today, shutting down all digital music services for the device once and for all.

Zune owners will still be able to use their devices, but will no longer have access to a Microsoft-run music store, or to Microsoft-provided streaming content. The move essentially turns the company’s once-ambitious iPod killer into an off-brand mp3 device.

Originally released in November 2006, the Zune never quite achieved the market dominance Microsoft executives thought it would, but it did earn a small and loyal following. Much like an iPod but with a larger screen, the Zune was considered by critics to be one of the better non-iPod music devices at the time of its release.

The device itself has been discontinued for four years, and no new models were  produced after 2008, but the company had continued to offer its digital music services for a flat monthly fee to those that owned Zunes already in the wild.

Similar to the recent fate of Beats Music subscribers’ automatic conversion to Apple Music, users who have not already cancelled their subscriptions will be converted to Microsoft’s newer Groove Music Pass services.

There hasn’t exactly been an uproar over the company’s cancellation, with most Zune owners having given up their anti-iPod fight for a touch screen smartphone in the past decade. The last breath of support for the media player matters more to the history books than anything, with the closure of Microsoft’s services writing the final page of the mid-2000s media player battle amidst the current war for streaming supremacy.

After all, the era of the standalone mp3 player is largely over. With more and more people using smartphones to download and stream music directly, Microsoft will likely continue to push for listeners on its phone and tablet devices and their Groove Music Pass.

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