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Microsoft delivers Zune player's last rites

The tech giant quietly announces on a support page that it will cease production of the ill-fated digital device.

Microsoft Zune HD
The Microsoft Zune HD.

It appears the Zune HD's days are officially numbered.

Speculation about the fate of Microsoft's troubled digital device was rekindled today when it mysteriously vanished from Microsoft's Zune Web site. Then it magically reappeared.

Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the following statement on a Zune support page appears to confirm the demise of the Zune player:

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.

It wasn't immediately clear when Microsoft made this announcement, but reports surfaced in March that Microsoft planned to discontinue making its Zune player and that Zune brand would live on as media player software on Windows Phone 7 and on the Xbox 360.

Microsoft introduced the original Zune in 2006 at a time when competitor Apple was already on its fifth-generation iPod and just two months shy of the original iPhone. Despite offering a handful of advantages over the iPod at the time--such as an FM radio and a much larger screen that detailed album art--Microsoft was unable to put a sizable dent in Apple's already dominant music player market share.

Then, less than three years after the Zune launch, the company rejiggered its approach, splitting up the product group to let the software team focus on porting the Zune software experience over to other platforms. This left the hardware side of the Zune equation to languish, with the last product refresh taking place in 2009 with the Zune HD.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.