I know what you may be thinking: isn’t the Zune already dead? Or perhaps more likely: what the hell is a Zune? Indeed Microsoft’s Zune music software never quite took off the way I believe it should have, but this week, Microsoft announced that the Zune name would be finished for good with the creation of Xbox Music.
I still remember making the decision to switch to Zune. I had been a long time iPod user (having a iPod video and later an iPod Touch), but I was sick of Apple’s dominance of the music player market. Generally, I don’t appreciate it when a company has a complete lock down on a particular market, so I jumped shipped and headed for Zune.
The appealing part of the Zune, besides fulfilling my inner hipster desires (I liked it before it was cool, or rather, I liked it and it was never cool), was the Zune Music Pass. For $13 a month, I could download unlimited songs from the enormous Zune Marketplace. I could also stream those songs or listen to whole albums before commiting the hard drive space. Of course, these songs were not free to keep forever, and they would cease to work if I ever stopped paying for the subscription pass. As an added gift, you could keep 10 free songs a month, without any digital rights management associated with them. It was a no-brainer; I could get 10 songs (which would cost at least $10 on iTunes) plus pay an extra $3 to get unlimited access to music that, while I didn’t own it, was rather useful in building hours of junky pop music party playlists (hey-o Ke$ha!). Plus, I had the peace of mind of obtaining all of my music legally.
But now, the subscription pass has been reduced to $10 a month for unlimited streams and downloads, but there are no longer 10 DRM-free downloads.
Essentially, I am now paying for Spotify, except without the social aspect. In addition, Microsoft’s transition to Xbox Music, which is designed to merge all of its media outlets (Windows Phone, Xbox, and Windows 8), is the final dagger through the heart of the Zune.
The Zune built a rather dedicated following through well designed hardware (once they got to second gen things), a decent software system, and the subscription pass; count me in on those most dedicated. My Zune HD still works flawlessly, even though I purchased it in Winter of 2009.
I’m unsure of where I will turn to next for my music needs. I still harbor a deep resentment for the iTunes megalith, and there are limited options on mp3 services in today’s market. For now, I’ll probably ride my Zune HD into the ground, obtaining my music through other means. And as I do so, I’ll look back and reflect on the beautiful and unappreciated contribution to the music scene that was Zune.