Microsoft over the weekend provided a more definitive answer on the end of the Zune after repeatedconfusion as the Zune HD exited stock in earnest. Best Buy, the Microsoft Store, and Walmart all now show the MP3 player as out of stock. Microsoft had pulled the Zune HD from its Originals plan but, until now, still had supply in other stores.
The company's support page claiming the end to Zune HD players also returned after a temporary return following the company's earlier confusion. The statement reinforces Microsoft's strategy of shifting focus for the Zune's services to Windows Phone as well as its desktop and Xbox 360 components.
Microsoft still hasn't formally ended the Zune line outside of its statements, although it finished September by ending its long-running Zune Insider podcast with an abrupt notice at the end of its final episode. No mention was made at the time of the devices themselves going away, but the two key Zune team members hosting the show were moving on to other projects.
The on-again, off-again message from Microsoft on the Zune line creates a muddy end for the devices that parallels Microsoft's commitment in the long term. Zune players first shipped in November 2006 and were given a high profile and focus at the company in the hopes of toppling the already-dominant iPod. After a major 2007 update, however, the company's efforts diminished with fewer hardware updates and less marketing attention. An industry shift towards smartphones and an inability to dislodge Apple's share gradually reduced the Zune's importance, most of all as the company began working on Windows Phone and needed the Zune team for its music and video features.
As of the Zune's end, the iPod has about 78 percent of the US market, according to NPD data. In its lifetime, the Zune reached as high as second place but was always taking share from smaller rivals, many of whom were once also Microsoft's partners and not just competitors.