The Microsoft music player, launched 10 years ago this week, may have been ill-fated, but it remains more than a memory for a dedicated group of fans on Reddit.
In some corners of the Internet, the Zune still lives.
Microsoft’s defunct line of music players was launched 10 years ago this week with promotional concerts around the country, a marketing blitz, and promises that this was only the first step in a growing line of entertainment-focused Microsoft devices and software.
“It’s just the beginning of this vision,” co-founder Bill Gates told revelers at Seattle’s Westlake Park.
The vision didn’t pan out. The Zune was no iPod killer, despite hardware that impressed reviewers. Its timing was not impeccable, just seven months before the iPhone kicked off the modern smartphone era and rendered standalone MP3 players obsolete.
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Microsoft pulled the plug on Zune hardware in 2011, and support for the software was turned off last year. The foray into MP3 players is widely viewed as one of Microsoft’s most prominent blunders during a decade spent chasing Apple’s success in consumer hardware.
But five years after the last Zune rolled off the assembly line, some fans still carry the torch for the device.
Evidence of that lives on Reddit, the online message board community for groups uniting around virtually any niche interest. Look there and you’ll find the home of a small but enthusiastic crew of Zune aficionados.
Gadget fans are a tribal set, prone to clustering around communities that use a certain app, or products built by Apple or Google or Microsoft. The louder among them take to social media to defend their selection as if choice of gadget or software is part of a grand competition.
Much of the activity on the Zune appreciation site is related to troubleshooting technical issues. Others swap success stories of hunting for deals on secondhand Zunes (“Got a 30GB for $20!”). One superfan touted his collection of more than 60 Zunes.
There are more personal tales, too, including one user’s lament posted last month.
“A piece of me is gone,” the user wrote of his Zune, which, at the age of seven, will no longer power on. “He lived as he played, loud and with clarity. Rest in peace.”
Another user, working on some unspecified research, asked the community if the Zune was still an active brand.
“The Zune brand is no more,” someone replied.
Some might beg to differ, Zune fan.