Is the Zune About To Become Extinct?

January 9, 2009 2:55 PM ET

The Zune, Microsoft's portable music player that attempted to wrestle away some of Apple's digital music dominance, may be ready to "throw in the towel." The Financial Times spoke to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who said the company might discontinue the device after it failed to achieve a fraction of the popularity the iPod has attained. Instead, Bill Gates and co. will focus on developing a "general purpose" device, kind of like an iPhone or that Blackberry we see so many commercials for.

The Zune arrived with high hopes in November 2006, boasting Wi-Fi capability and FM radio — two features absent from the iPod — as well as a bigger screen. Plus it allowed users to share music with other Zuners. However, instead of catching on, the rest of the technological world caught up. The Zune revolution was short-lived, and users found less and less folks to share the Zune capabilities with as people began to exile back to the iPod. In fact, the Zune was such a non-competitor, we don't think Apple even dedicated a "I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC" commercial to it. Plus, it didn't help that whatever devotees it had left it alienated at the turn of 2009 thanks to a mass computer bug.

So instead of beating a dead — or at least immobile — horse, Microsoft will shift their focus in the digital media realm towards software, something the company is much more versed at. But with the talk of a "general purpose" device, can the followers of Zune expect a Zune Phone in the future? "You should not anticipate that," Ballmer said.

Related Stories:
Microsoft Adds More Wi-Fi Options, Bigger Hard Drives For Zune
At a Glance: Microsoft's New Zune Players
Is Apple Planning to Out-Zune Competitors With Wireless iPod?

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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