Microsoft’s Zune music player hardware is officially dead and manufacturing of new devices will cease, according to an official company blog post, though its legacy lives on via apps and software services. But recent changes to the company’s Zune Music Pass subscription plans that eliminate features granting users ownership of a set number of songs as part of membership may irk potential supporters.
Effective immediately, Zune Music Pass unlimited music download and streaming plans are now available for $9.99. More affordable than previous $14.99 options, which remain fully accessible to existing subscribers, who will be grandfathered in (and can enjoy streaming videos on-demand), higher-priced plans will be unavailable to new sign-ups going forward. But while first-time subscribers to the cheaper service can enjoy obvious financial upsides, what they won’t get are 10 monthly MP3 song downloads which users permanently own as part of the pricier package.
Previously a key differentiator over rival offerings from competitors like Rdio and Spotify, new recruits are instead being asked to find solace in a library of 14 million-plus songs and thousands of music videos. Do or don’t, built-in support for synchronizing one’s digital music collection across up to four PCs and Windows Phone or Zune portable devices may help soothe prospective sign-ups, however.
Despite its warm reception by critics, the Zune HD digital music player previously failed to move the needle at retail against better-received competitors such as the iPod touch. As a result, Microsoft has opted to concentrate its future mobile music and video efforts around Windows Phone handsets rather than dedicated single-function MP3 player devices.