Microsoft zapping Zune music player

Microsoft, confirming one of the technology industry’s worst kept secrets, is killing off its Zune music player about 5 years after its debut as a potential iPod killer.

While Zune hardware earned some positive reviews, market share didn’t follow. Apple’s iPod owned about three quarters of the 2010 MP3 player market, according to NPD, while Zune had about 1%.

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Reports of the Zune’s demise heated up in March, but Microsoft declined to comment on the going away of Zune hardware at the time. The end of Zune hardware got renewed attention earlier this week when Zune media players, including the iPod touch rival Zune HD that was introduced in 2009,  disappeared from the company’s zune.net website (and at least one Microsoft worker tweeted that was simply a “publishing mishap”).

But now Microsoft has acknowledged the end of the Zune hardware line:

“We recently announced that, going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players. So what does this mean for our current Zune users? Absolutely nothing. Your device will continue to work with Zune services just as it does today. And we will continue to honor the warranties of all devices for both current owners and those who buy our very last devices. Customer service has been, and will remain a top priority for us.”

(Microsoft's Zune page is still directing those interested in buying a 16GB Zune HD to WalMart's website, where a music player bundled with a car charger has been marked down from $280 to $160.)

Zune software will live on across Microsoft’s Windows Phone, Xbox and other product lines.

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