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See You, Zune: An Obit for Microsoft's Media Player

Thanks for the Flash memories. A little more than five years, Microsoft has pulled the plug on both the Zune Original and one of my favorite pieces of tech Zune HD. Yes, I am the proud owner of what was yesterday the gadget of a conscientious Apple objector and today a piece of obscure and obsolete tech. In a short paragraph on, Microsoft announced that going forward their mobile music and video strategy will be focused on Windows Phone.

They went on to reassure me and other  Zune HD holdouts in glib fashion that the change means "[a]bsolutely nothing" since our devices will still work and they'll still honor our warranties. In the meantime, they're going to highjack our beloved Zune Pass subscription service and make it more Windows Phone-friendly. As I listen to Jay-Z's "Lost Ones" on my Zune HD, I can't help but look back on all the good times.

When I received my first Zune HD at a Microsoft Open House event, I was immediately taken in by its slim form factor, The black metallic device had a scant three physical buttons and a large (for the time) 3.3-inch touchscreen display. When I arrived home, I immediately downloaded the Zune software, signed up for an account and purchased a $45.00 3-month Zune Pass. For that small amount, I could download all the music I wanted with the added bonus of permanently keeping 10 tracks every month. Around that time Apple had just begun introducing tiered pricing for music to the tune of $.69, $.99, and $1.29. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of me and any Apple music affiliation. 

It only took me a year to fill my 16GB black beauty to the brim with Queen, George Michael, Kanye West, and India.Arie. It was my constant travel companion. But it wasn't just the music that had me hooked. Similiar to iTunes and the Apple App store, I could download apps and videos and I could also surf the net. Granted web surfing on the Zune wasn't the most user-friendly experience, but I remember a few times when it pulled me through in a pinch.

And when my Zune tumbled out of my pocket only for the screen to shatter against a wrought iron fence, I mourned my damaged tech and quickly upgraded to a 32GB model. I'm fully aware that I can load music onto my phone, or just let Pandora, Spotify, or Slacker Radio do the heavy lifting for me, but I prefer my Zune so I can reserve my phone's battery for more pressing things like playing a Super Mario RPG emulation, updating my Facebook and Twitter statuses, or gasp!, actually making calls.

I'm sad that Zune HD, a solid piece of tech has fallen victim to the iDevice onslaught and the rise of the all-in-one smartphone. I can only treasure my obsolete tech bauble and keep a look out for a reasonably-priced replacement, in case my Zune meets with another untimely accident.

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