Microsoft Zune, the long-dead digital music participant, is having fun with a resurgence, of types. It is a featured participant (get it?) within the new film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Within the movie, which opens on Might 5, and which I’ve not seen, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord has traded the Sony Walkman he utilized in Vol 1 and 2 for a Zune (not even a Zune HD mannequin). If I needed to guess, this could point out that the group finally ends up on Earth someplace round 2006 when, sure, the very first 30GB Microsoft Zune launched.
What is perhaps little greater than a passing reference in every other film is now being elevated to one thing of an prolonged tribute, because of a partnership between the filmmakers and, sure, Microsoft. There is a web site, Zune.net (opens in new tab), dedicated to the traditional Zune’s star-making flip, and a bunch of stem-related actions that embody 3D-printing a Zune case in area.
This sudden resurgence of curiosity within the Zune forged me again 17 years, to the beginning of the aborted Zune revolution.
A superb hook
Microsoft’s slightly wonderful try at carving away a chunk of the digital media participant market arrived at exactly the improper time. It was 5 years after Apple’s ground-breaking iPod launched, and only a yr earlier than Apple would launch the primary iPhone, and set in movement the decade-plus dismantling of the iPod enterprise.
My recollection of the Zune was that it did issues otherwise to, and typically higher than, the iPod. Positive, it cribbed a bit, with a Zune Pad management that was quite a bit just like the iPod’s authentic scroll wheel. Nonetheless, there have been different good and strange touches, like the power to share music between Zune homeowners (solely on a brief foundation, although).
Microsoft bought thousands and thousands of Zunes, however not many tens of thousands and thousands, as Apple did with the iPod.
After the iPhone launched, and everybody fell in love with multi-purpose cellular units that might talk in addition to they might entertain, Microsoft did not actually have a lot of a solution. Its authentic Home windows Cell platform was abysmal, and unsuited for Zune.
When the Zune HD launched in 2009, the Apple iPhone juggernaut was already effectively underway.
Most of us who noticed the smaller, sleeker, and Zune Pad-free Zune HD in particular person have been stunned at its beauty. Heck, the machine had an OLED-based touchscreen years earlier than the iPhone. The interface was daring, vivid, and would later affect the Home windows Cellphone platform (RIP).
It was additionally useless on arrival. Inside two years of its launch, Microsoft effectively killed the Zune hardware business and left solely vestiges of the Zune software program ecosystem alive. These, too, ultimately disappeared.
No hit surprise
Now, years after the Zune has all however pale from reminiscence, Microsoft and Marvel are giving it a mini-revival. However in title and nostalgia solely.
The Microsoft website has a video that includes developer Scott Hanselman who, with an enviable assortment of authentic Zunes, reveals you methods to get all of them working once more with a contemporary Home windows PC.
And, let me let you know, he has to leap by way of some critical hoops so as to take action. Microsoft provides zero help for these devices, and Hanselman resorts to a wide range of third-party fan websites and artful programming workarounds to seek out the software program and instruments wanted to pull the music and video gamers into our smartphone-saturated current.
Watching the movies, and looking out again at a few of what I stated and wrote (opens in new tab) in regards to the Zune, I can not assist however marvel (or perhaps Marvel) at its elegant interface and delightful industrial design. It actually had every thing you want so as to succeed within the trendy cellular expertise world, besides perhaps for timing.
After I requested Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director and screenwriter James Gunn, on the rising social media platform Bluesky, why he selected the Zune, he made it clear that it wasn’t about expertise, or missed alternatives. “I simply thought it was humorous,” wrote Gunn.
The butt of a film joke or not, at the least now Zune will get to dwell on, maybe eternally, on the agile hip of Star-Lord.