Zune logo.svg
Manufacturer Microsoft
Release date

United States November 14, 2006 (Zune 30)[1]
United States November 13, 2007 (Zune 4, 8, 80)[2]
Canada June 13, 2008 (Zune 4, 8, 80)

United StatesCanada September 16, 2008 (Zune 16, 120)[3][4]
United States September 15, 2009 (Zune HD 16, 32)[5]
United States April 12, 2010 (Zune HD 64)[6]
Retail availability United States November 14, 2006
Canada June 13, 2008
Operating system Windows Embedded CE 6.0[citation needed]
CPU Freescale i. MX31L processor ARM Core
Nvidia Tegra APX 2600 (Zune HD)
Storage capacity 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 GB flash drive
30, 80, and 120 GB hard drive
Display 1.8in glass LCD screen, resolution 240×320 (Zune 4, 8, 16)
3in QVGA LCD screen, resolution 240×320 (Zune 30)
3.2in glass LCD screen, resolution 240×320 at 4:3 aspect ratio (Zune 80, 120)
3.3in glass OLED touchscreen, resolution 480×272 at 16:9 aspect ratio (Zune HD)
Connectivity Wi-Fi (Zune-Zune, Sync-PC, Microsoft Surface)
Online services Zune Marketplace
Predecessor Portable Media Center
Successor Zune HD

Zune is a digital media brand owned by Microsoft which includes a line of portable media players, a digital media player software for Windows machines, a music subscription service known as a 'Zune Music Pass', music and video streaming for the Xbox 360 via the Zune Software, music, TV and movie sales, and the media software for Windows Phone. Zune Music Pass is for Music only and as of October, 2011 was reduced to $9.99(USD) a month for unlimited music rental and music video streaming.

On October 3, 2011, Microsoft announced that it has discontinued all Zune hardware, encouraging users to transition to Windows Phone. However, later, the announcement was removed and a Zune Support Team member tweeted that the page was added to a website in error.[7][8] Finally, despite previous denials, the original announcement of the Zune hardware's discontinuation was restored to the Zune Support site.[9][10]



First generation

The first-generation Zune device was created by Microsoft in close cooperation with Toshiba, which took the design of the Gigabeat S and redeveloped it under the name Toshiba 1089 as registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) starting in 2006.[11] Xbox 360 overseer J Allard ran the project, codenamed "Argo," staffed with Xbox and MSN Music Store developers[12] who worked on "Alexandria", finalized as Zune Marketplace.[13] Both products were later united under the Zune brand name in the U.S. market.

At approximately midnight Pacific Standard Time, on the morning of December 31, 2008, many[14] first generation Zune 30 models froze.[15][16] Microsoft has stated that the problem is with the internal clock driver written by Freescale and the way the device handles a leap year; with an intermediate official "fix" to drain the device battery and then recharge after 12 noon GMT on January 1, 2009.[17] Specifically, a third party analysis of the clock driver's source code revealed an infinite loop in the way the clock driver calculates years based on a given number of elapsed days.[18]

Second generation

The second-generation Zune 4, 8, and 80 devices, manufactured by Flextronics, introduced the touch-sensitive Zune Pad. The 4 and 8 GB Zune devices use flash memory and are smaller in size than the 80 GB version, which uses a hard drive. The 30 GB Zune was not redesigned. At the same time, the Zune 2.0 software was released for Windows PCs. This version of the software was completely re-written and featured a new user interface.[19]

Third generation

Zune 3/8/12 and Zune 4/8/16 menu system

Zune devices feature games developed using XNA. An early version of XNA Game Studio 3.0, released in May 2008, allowed developers to work on games for Zune devices.[20]

The third-generation Zune 16 and 120 devices were released in September 2008, coinciding with the release of the Zune Software 3.0 update. The only changes to this generation of devices were to the firmware, which was made available for all previous models, and the storage capacity. Included in this firmware update was the ability to tag and later purchase songs heard on FM radio, channels which can be customized to deliver suggested songs for the user, the games Hexic and Texas Hold' em, support for audiobooks from online stores such as Audible.com and others that support OverDrive media files,[21][22][23] a clock, and changed quicklist functionality. The ability to purchase songs from Zune Marketplace on the device while connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi was also introduced. To help push this feature, Microsoft partnered with Wayport to allow Zune devices to access its network of over 10,000 wireless hotspots, including those at McDonald's restaurants.[24]

Zune Pass customers in the United States could also now download 10 tracks to keep per month in addition to the existing subscription-dependent unlimited music downloads.

Fourth generation

The fourth-generation Zune device, the Zune HD, was released on September 15, 2009. New features included an OLED capacitative touch screen, HD video out, and HD radio. On the same day, the Zune 4.0 software was released to support the Zune HD.[25] In addition, it became possible for Zune Pass subcribers to stream tracks through a computer’s web browser.[26] Zune 4.0 also supports internet radio streams but this feature is disabled by default and can only be enabled by a third-party patch.[27] This was the first firmware released for the Zune line which did not provide new features for older Zune models. These models were given a firmware update with version 3.2.

Microsoft released Zune 4.5 on April 5, 2010. This update introduced SmartDJ and codec features. A firmware update brought picks and an improved the TV-out experience to the Zune HD.[28]

From Summer 2010, United Airlines started to offer Zune in-flight audio by means of 21 playlists that are very similar to the Zune Channels offered on the Zune Marketplace.[29] Each channel offers up to 3 hours of unique programming ranging from classic rock, contemporary pop, opera, electronica, piano jazz, and others.[30]

Xbox 360

In autumn 2009, Zune Marketplace began offering streaming and downloading of movies and TV shows on the Xbox 360.[31] On November 4, 2010, the music portion of the Zune Marketplace was brought to Xbox. This coincided with the launch of the Kinect and Kinect owners can navigate the application menus using hand gestures, without a controller. Users must have a Zune Pass subscription to play music in the application, and only Zune Pass content is available. Locally saved music must still be played through the Xbox's native media library.

Windows Phones

Microsoft announced new versions of Zune once in a year prior to 2010. On March 2011, Bloomberg.com published an article[32] claiming that Microsoft would stop introducing new versions of the Zune music and video player. The article has been widely quoted over the internet and by news agencies. However, a Microsoft representative for Zune business development denied this rumor saying that the Windows Phone platform introduction should be considered to be the annual Zune update for 2010.[33]

Zune-branded media playback software is a feature Windows Phone devices. These phones sync with the Zune software and are compatible with Zune Pass.

All Windows Phone devices include capacitative multi-touch screens, FM radios, Wi-Fi, and certain other features included on the Zune HD. The user interface of the Zune devices, particularly the Zune HD, served as the inspiration for the user interface of Windows Phone. Microsoft refer to the design language of this user interface as Metro.

On October 11, 2010, Microsoft released Zune software v4.7, which supports syncing of Windows Phone devices with a Windows PC.[34]

Zune devices

The first Zune model, the Zune 30, was released in the United States on November 14, 2006, featuring a capacity of 30 gigabytes, FM radio, and a 3 inch screen. The Zune 30 was initially available in black, brown or white. Retail packages contained a pair of basic headphones, a carrying case, USB cord, and a software CD.

The Zune 80 was announced on October 2, 2007,[35] along with the smaller Zune 4 and Zune 8 to compete with Apple's iPod nano line. These were to be known as the second generation of Zune devices. The Zune 80 featured a 3.2 inch screen, while the Zune 4 and 8 come with an 1.8 inch screen. Both come with a new touchpad-style input device ("squircle", as fans called it) and new software. Additional file support for H.264 and MPEG-4 formats was also included, whereas the older Zune 30 requires these formats to be transcoded to WMV prior to sync. The ability to sync wirelessly (automatically if connected to a power supply), podcast support, and an upgraded song-sharing licensing are now available on all models. The new software also allows a Zune device to communicate with other Zune devices to share pictures and songs. A free firmware update added the new software features to the original Zune 30, and was released on November 13, 2007.[36] The Zune 80 came bundled with a USB connection cord and premium headphones. The Zune 4 and 8 come with a USB connection cord and basic headphones.

The Zune 30, the original Zune music player, has a 30 GB hard drive, 3 inch screen, and a simple directional pad for menu navigation. The second generation of Zune devices includes the Zune 4, 8, and 80 and. The Zune 4, and 8 are smaller in size and have 4 GB, and 8 GB of flash memory, respectively. The 80 GB Zune acts as a replacement for the Zune 30: it is thinner and lighter than the original. All second generation Zunes have a Zune Pad instead of the original directional pad that was included on the Zune 30. Microsoft released an upgrade for all Zune models, including the Zune 30, to the second generation software/firmware.

On May 26, 2009 Microsoft announced the Zune HD, the first touch screen Zune. The Zune HD has HD Radio and the ability to display video in High Definition through a docking station (sold separately). The screen is multi-touch enabled and uses gestures such as swiping and pinching throughout the player. The device comes with 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB of flash memory. The screen is OLED, 3.3 inches, and has a 480x272 16:9 resolution. Also included are WiFi, a custom Internet Explorer browser, and an accelerometer.

Preloaded content

Zune devices feature preloaded audio and video content from various artists, including, Wisin & Yandel, BT, The Thermals, Paul Oakenfold, and CSS. Special edition Zune devices feature their own unique set of content.


Zune 30 Zune 4 Zune 8 Zune 16 Zune 80 Zune 120[37] Zune HD[38]
Size 6.1 × 11.2 × 1.5 cm 4.1 × 9.1 × 0.8 cm 6.1 × 10.8 × 1.3 cm 5.27 × 10.21 × 0.89 cm[39]
Weight 158.8 g 47 g 127.6 g 73.7 g[39]
Screen 7.6 cm (3") (240×320 pixels) 4.6 cm (1.8") (240×320 pixels) 8.1 cm (3.2") (240×320 pixels) 8.4 cm (3.3") (480x272 pixels)
Storage 30 GB HDD 4 GB Flash 8 GB Flash 16 GB Flash 80 GB HDD 120 GB HDD 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB Flash[40]
Wi-Fi Zune-to-Zune, sync with computer / wireless network / wireless multiplayer gaming / wireless shopping from Zune devices as of September 16, 2008 (with firmware update) Zune-to-Zune, sync with computer / wireless network / wireless multiplayer gaming / wireless shopping from Zune devices as of September 16, 2008 Sync with computer / wireless network / wireless multiplayer gaming / Access to a Wi-Fi Zune Marketplace / Web browsing
Colors Black (JS8-00001), brown (JS8-00003), white (JS8-00002), hot pink (JS8-00008), pink,[41] Black (glossy black in 16 GB only) green, red, pink, blue (8 GB only in retail, 16 GB through Zune Originals)[41] Black, red (previously available only as a Valentine's Day promotion, and later as a customization option for Zune Originals)[41] Black,[42] blue, red (Blue only available from the Zune Store) Black, platinum, red, blue, green, purple, magenta – platinum 32 GB, black 16 GB, red, blue, green, purple and magenta available only from Zune Originals)
Limited Editions Orange (JS8-00007),[43] Brown (Halo 3),[44] Red & Pink with Diamonds (Nylon Magazine),[45] Black, (Halo 3[46] Wisin & Yandel,[47] Adult Swim,[48] Microsoft Interns[49]) Citron 16 GB (Zune Employees),[50] Gold 8 GB (GOODS),[51] Black 8 GB (Allen Iverson),[52] Green 4 GB (2008 Democratic National Convention),[53] Red 4 GB (2008 Republican National Convention)[53] Gold (GOODS)[51] Black (Joy Division)[54] Black (Gears of War 2)
Navigation Circular Directional Pad Zune Pad Multi-Touch Screen
Released November 2006 November 2007 September 2008 November 2007 September 2008 September 15, 2009
Price (US$ at launch) $249.95 $149.99 $199.99 $179.00 $249.99 $249.99 16 GB: $219.99
32 GB: $289.99
64 GB: $349.99[40]
Price (US$ recommended today)[citation needed] $99.99 $79.99 $99.99 $159.99 $199.99 $229.99 16 GB: $179.99
32 GB: $249.99
64 GB: $349.99[40]
Battery life (constant audio / constant video) 12 hours audio, 3.5 hours video 24 hours audio, 4 hours video 24 hours audio, 4 hours video 30 hours audio, 4 hours video 33 hours audio, 8.5 hours video[55]


The standard Zune devices come with basic headphones and a proprietary USB data cable. The Zune 30 comes with these items as well as a carrying bag, and the Zune 80 model has upgraded "Zune Premium" headphones. Accessories sold separately include:

  • Charging devices (car adapter, AC wall-socket adapters, external battery)
  • I/O adapters (A/V composite, FM transmitters, headphones, USB data cable)
  • Docks (charging, multimedia large speaker, vertical hands-free assist)
  • Protection (glass screen protection, hardened/cushioning material case protection)
  • Carrying cases (standard issue, armband type, and belt clip)
  • Replacement parts and upgrades (battery, hard drive, LCD, etc.)

Among the firms that make Zune accessories are Microsoft, Altec Lansing, Belkin, Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO), Dual Electronics, Griffin Technology, Harman Kardon, JBL, Integrated Mobile Electronics, Jamo International, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Logitech, Monster Cable Products Inc., Speck, Targus, Kicker and VAF Research.[56]


According to Microsoft, the most up-to-date firmware version is 4.5 (114) for the Zune HD, which replaces the original player firmware that ships on the device, 4.0 (356). In the case of the Zune 4, 8, 16, 30, 80, and 120 players, the most current player software version is 3.3, which provides compatibility with Zune 4.2.[57] Version 3.3 was primarily a bug fix release and was released on January 26, 2010.

The operating system for the Zune devices is based on the Windows CE kernel for ARM architecture and uses a distribution similar to the Portable Media Center found on the Gigabeat S. Zune's native file compatible formats are:

  • JPEG for images;
  • WMV (Used by Zune Marketplace)
  • MPEG-4 – supported on all models except the Zune 30 device
  • H.264 – supported on all models except the Zune 30 device
  • Avi video (Xvid) support is included on the Zune HD (firmware versions 4.5 and later).
  • MP3 (used by Zune Marketplace)
  • AAC (unprotected) not AAC (.m4a)
  • WMA Pro (2-channel)
  • WMA Standard (used by Zune Marketplace)
  • WMA lossless

Any formats not compatible with an individual device are automatically transcoded into a compatible format.

The graphical user interface (GUI) (called the "twist interface" by Microsoft) has sections for music, videos, pictures, social, radio, podcasts, marketplace, games and settings. It is said to provide "two-dimensional navigation" for scrolling through items with its directional pad.[58] In the music section, users can add songs to a quick playlist without reconnecting to the desktop software. In the picture section, the background can be customized using any image stored on the device (for viewing) as wallpaper. In the radio section, users can receive and play FM radio internally, with North American, Japanese, and European tuning ranges, and display Radio Data System information (usually artist and song) when available. When artist/song information are available, the device can search for the song in the Zune Marketplace for download or purchase. In the social section, users can broadcast the user's profile and recent activity to others nearby.

The first updates to the firmware added sharing features (send, community, list nearby Zune users) as described in FCC filings.[59][60] Firmware 1.1 allowed the device to inherit sharing capabilities described by codename Pyxis. Early firmware releases patched software bugs. About a year later, the much anticipated 2.2 firmware release added support for DVR-MS (Media Center Recorded TV) files, lossless playback, added wireless syncing, and GUI interface improvements.[citation needed]

Zune supports the Windows Media DRM digital rights management system, which is not compatible with other DRM systems and is not part of the PlaysForSure platform or program.[61][62] Multimedia content is transferred through Media Transfer Protocol (MTP); however, its proprietary MTP extensions ("MTPZ") place an interoperability barrier between the Zune and previous MTP-based software.

Zune software

Zune software version 4.0.740.0 running in Windows Vista

The Zune software functions as management software for the device, a full media player application with a library, an interface to the Zune Marketplace, and as a media streaming server.[63] Zune Software is used to sync with all devices with Zune functionality, including the Zune devices, Windows Phone, and Microsoft Kin. Zune devices work exclusively with the Zune software and Marketplace.

The Zune software organizes the media in its library and allows users to add to the library by ripping from CDs, syncing with a Zune device, and downloading from the Zune Marketplace. The Zune software also allows one to organize song metadata. It can automatically download album art and metadata tag data for content in the library.

On the PC, the Zune software streams files to other PCs, the Xbox 360, and other compatible devices. The Zune software also connects with the Zune social and keeps track of files swapped with other users.

The Zune software runs only on 32-bit Windows XP or 32-bit/64-bit Windows Vista/Windows 7.[64] Windows XP Professional x64 Edition is not supported.

Zune Marketplace

Zune software for Windows PCs showing the Zune Marketplace

The Zune Marketplace is an online store that offers music, podcasts, TV shows, movies, music videos, movie trailers and mobile applications. Content can be viewed or purchased on Windows PCs with the Zune software installed, Zune devices, the Xbox 360, the Microsoft Kin phones, or Windows Phone phones.[65]

It notably offers a selection of 11 million songs[66] and the Zune Pass music subscription service.


Zune Marketplace was originally only available in the United States. In October 2010, certain Zune Marketplace content became available in additional countries: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, not all content is available in all countries; for example, podcasts and TV shows are not offered at all outside the United States.[67]

Sales and marketing


Microsoft launched several campaigns to jump-start the Zune. It had a major campaign to promote Zune with "Music the way it wants to be" as a major theme and "Welcome to the social" as an advertisement tagline. Also, the company enlisted about 300 "Zune-masters" to advertise the device on American college campuses, to promote the item, and to run Zune-related events. In exchange, they received free merchandise, including a Zune.[68]

Additionally, Microsoft launched an attempt at viral marketing with its comingzune site, complete with several videos in succession.[69] Along with ZuneInsider, and several other ad hoc events, Microsoft hoped to generate buzz for the product outside of the normal marketing avenues, and market its product as a part of a social construct.[70]

The choice of branding and distribution were part of the Zune as a decision of "two strategies in the market right now: cross-brand ecosystems... and singular brand ecosystems... The former is gaining in share and units sold, but the latter has enormous share and won't give that up easily."[62]

Microsoft normally follows a platform (cross-brand) strategy, as exemplified by the PlaysForSure system. However, its Xbox division has gained some experience with the vertically-integrated strategy in which it controls everything end-to-end from the hardware to the online store. With Apple dominating the audio market with its vertically-integrated iPod system, the Xbox division won permission to try the same approach, separately from PlaysForSure and PlayReady.

Microsoft also wanted to go beyond Apple's efforts and promote the tagline "the social" and wireless sharing as key differentiators. Chris Stephenson, leader of Zune's marketing and manager of Global Marketing for the Entertainment Business,[71] said, "we see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together."[62] New York Times Magazine columnist Rob Walker agrees that the Zune's "community and togetherness seem like a reasonable counterpunch to iPod's supposed attraction as an individuality enabler that allows owners to wallow in their own tasteful personal soundtracks." But he also sees the Zune as having gained appeal as an individualistic statement against the omnipresent iPod: "The most salient feature of the Zune seems to be that it's not an iPod".[72]

Microsoft also released a Zune theme for Windows XP that replaced the appearance of the operating system. This theme includes an orange Start button and black taskbar/Start menu.

Zune has also expanded its brand efforts by creating a Millennial-friendly website and campaign focused on emerging artist talent: Zune Arts

MySpace has added the feature to label music players on personal profiles to Zune-themed or a red Zune 8.


During its launch week, the original Zune, now Zune 30, was the second-most-sold portable media device with a 9% unit share in the United States; behind the market-leading iPod's 63%.[73] For the first 6 months after launch, NPD Group figures show that the Zune 30 achieved approximately 10%[74][75][76] market share in the Hard Drive based MP3 market and 3%[77][78][79] in the overall MP3 player market. According to Bloomberg Television 1.2 million Zune 30 players were sold between November 2006 and June 2007,[80] surpassing a milestone.[81] A price drop on Amazon.com during November 2007 temporarily boosted the brown Zune 30 to the top Sales Rank in electronics.

On May 6, 2008, Microsoft announced that it had sold just over 2 million Zunes. Roughly one million of those were sold since the second generation Zunes launched in November 2007.[82]

On May 22, 2008, It was reported that GameStop "has decided to stop selling Microsoft's Zune players at its stores due to what it sees as insufficient demand from customers." A statement issued by Adam Sohn, Zune marketing manager said "We have a set of great partnerships...Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and others."[83]

In January 2009, Microsoft's quarterly earnings filing with the SEC indicated that Zune sales had fallen $100 million from 2007 to 2008 during the fourth quarter of the calendar year. The Wall Street Journal estimated that sales appear to have dropped from about $185 million during the holiday period in 2007 to just $85 million in 2008. This may be due to the company's decision not to substantially update the Zune hardware in the fall of 2008.[84]

Zune market share decreased to 2% in the first half of 2009, according to the NPD Group.[85]

Availability outside the U.S.

Microsoft released the Zune to Canadian consumers on June 13, 2008, marking the first time it was available outside the U.S. The device has yet to be released in other territories. Microsoft has even made efforts to ban visitors outside the United States from Zune Originals. Users wishing to sign up for a Zune Tag can easily circumvent most problems by signing up for a US-based account.[86]

The Zune 2.0–3.* firmware does not support non-romanized fonts other than Cyrillic. East Asian characters used in Chinese and Japanese, for example, show up on the Zune device as small boxes instead of characters. Microsoft's Zune desktop software has no problem with Unicode. Users have improvised ways to downgrade the firmware on the Zune device to older version that support Asian characters (V1 Zunes can be hacked to display Asian font).

See also


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  8. ^ Zune Hardware stay of execution…..Officially?
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  10. ^ Zune HD and others officially dead after all, despite denials
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