“As of November 15, 2015, Zune services will be retired.”
The quote above is the first line of the Zune retirement FAQ on Microsoft’s support site. I’d be lying if I said this came as a surprise. The Zune device and service never really took off as the iPod competitor it was intended to be. Apple managed to squeeze into a single device (and later entire line) all the class, style, and pop culture appeal that the iPod would ever need to be the reigning champion among mp3 players. The Zune was always just… Microsoft’s knock-off iPod.
I bought my Zune off the recommendation of an ex-girlfriend, influenced as well by my strong distaste for Apple products. The device was not, and still is not, a terrible piece of equipment. Pretty sturdy, considering I’ve dropped and tossed it numerous times and it still works like a champ. Very basic interface, with the ability to sort by song, album, or artist, and to queue up more songs on the fly. My one gripe is the inability to go directly to a certain letter or quick scroll through menus. At anything more than a few hundred songs, scrolling to anything more than halfway through the alphabet takes far longer than I feel it should. I can forgive the absence of a search, but give me some way to more efficiently find what I want to listen to.
The Zune software was… hit or miss. I used it as my main PC-listening software for a long time after replacing Real Player. The interface wasn’t bad once you learned it, but I feel like meta data just didn’t make any sense on it. Songs would occasionally revert to old data, even after I manually corrected the information. Some of the flashy effects and stuff would make it lag pretty bad on mediocre hardware. Once they introduced subscription-based streaming, I had begun migrating to Google Play Music as my main source of media consumption and aggregation, so I never really paid much attention to it.
Despite Apple’s propensity to lock down iTunes tighter than a bank vault (or possibly because of it), the iTunes software and iPod hardware really just linked up so smooth. Though I often dismiss those who say that Apple products “just work,” that really was the case with the iPod and iTunes. Zune hardware and software was finicky, it didn’t want to sync without a whole lot of headache, and heaven forbid you only want to sync certain songs to the device. Not terrible once you got everything set up properly, but getting to that point was laborious.
I still use my Zune device during my work commute. It saves me from using my phone battery or mobile data if T-Mobile starts counting music streaming against data again. It’s a tank and I can just toss it in my messenger bag without caring if I do any damage to it or tying up pocket space. The version of my music library on it is extremely dated, but my entire current music library wouldn’t fit on it and I don’t want to go through the trouble of syncing as much of it as I can.
I knew the Zune line would eventually die off. It’s been quickly losing steam since the release of the Zune HD, and most people who didn’t have one don’t even know what a Zune is today. Microsoft didn’t have a chance with the stranglehold Apple had on the mp3 industry, especially not with lackluster hardware and software. I’m still going to use my Zune until it dies, but something about the official end of Zune service leaves me somber and nostalgic. Here’s to past years of music, as well as the years to come. Here’s to getting me through my angsty teen years, my dumb college years, and into adulthood. Here’s to you, Zune. We had a good run.
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