Zune: Story of a failure that served to change the look of all Microsoft

The iPod dominated everything and everyone when a September 14, 2006 Microsoft rolled the blanket to the head and launched its own MP3 player, which he called Zune. That product was born with a unique design both externally and internally, and in fact became famous for the brown model (poop, for many) with which Redmond wanted to convince us that “brown is the new black”.

That color became a meme for those times, and the truth is that despite their efforts and four generations of devices, the Zune and his successors never managed to succeed in their battle against the iPod. It may not matter that much, because what they did achieve was to mark a turning point in the user interface of all their devices.

When music was everything

Nobody had managed to cough up the iPod since Apple announced it in October 2001, and the Zune was no exception. In fact, by the time the Cupertino company was launched, it was already on the verge of announcing the second of its great disruptions of the last decade, because just three months later Jobs would present the iPhone to the world.

The Zune, therefore, arrived late and, according to many, poorly, with a proposal that was not especially different from that of Apple with its iPods, which had already won over millions of users and had in fact caused something unthinkable for the time: that Apple made a native application (iTunes) for Windows with which to manage that device.

Competing with that phenomenon was an almost impossible mission, although during certain moments the Zune did generate a decent interestin the United States, the only country where Microsoft wanted to market it.

Four generations later

That first model was followed by others that modified both the storage capacity and the design and some of the internal features. The Zune 4, 8 and 80 that appeared a year later would copy the iPad’s touch wheel, christening it as the Zune Pad as a big difference from the original model.

That evolution would remain with a third generation in which they arrived The Zune 16 and 120 increased the capacity and gave access to the Zune Marketplace to acquire music from the own device. It also reinforced the use of Zune Pass, a streaming service that also failed to materialize , and even the possibility of playing in the Zune, an option that neither developers nor users seemed to welcome too much interest.

The last of the models of that family was the Zune HD that was presented on September 15, 2009. This model had a much more careful design in which the most remarkable was its touch screen , which made the control Zune Pad unnecessary and that became the hallmark of a player that was directly responsible for iPod touch.

That device posed a similar bet to that of the Apple device, allowing both music synchronization via WiFi and access to the Zune Marketplace and even web browsing . I was also prepared to play 720 videos and use it as a portable device that I then connect to a television through a dock with HDMI output.

That product would see a small update in April 2010 to give it more capacity and reach 64 GB, and successive firmware improvements led to this player social network clients such as Twitter or Facebook , but not without these applications were problematic.

Microsoft would not return any Zune to the market: sales did not respond , and two years after the release of Zune HD, in October 2011, the firm announced that it was abandoning all Zune hardware and encouraging users to migrate to their Windows phones Phone, they tried to compete with the iPhone. History would repeat itself, because Microsoft also arrived late and badly at that market.

Not everything had been a failure with the Zune , however.

An interface that infected all Microsoft

That player certainly had lights and shadows, and between them there was of course a really original user interface in which typographies were protagonists. In November 2007 the so-called Zegoe appeared , a typography based on Segoe – whose license of use gave Microsoft problems in the European Union – that would end up becoming the absolute protagonist of all the Microsoft branding and its products and services to the present day. .

That visual interface centered on the text and not on icons was a breath of fresh air for devices that, like the Zune, could not differentiate themselves in the background, but in the form. Everything in the Zunes appeared with that typography in which the capital letters were practically disappeared and in which clarity and cleanliness were a true virtue.

It was one of the great (and few) successes of the Zune, and in fact that success ended up infecting Microsoft, who applied those principles to Windows Phone 7, the operating system that would debut at the end of 2010 and that would adopt that love for fonts in many of its sections.

The predominance of lowercase and that interface in which typographies are protagonists was the hallmark of mobile phones based on Windows Phone.

Although Microsoft differed even more in this section with the use of the animated tiles that it has maintained up to the present, we still notice that inheritance. We do it even today in devices based on Windows 10, and it is enough to access the Configuration menu to check how those design principles are maintained – although both typography and iconography have changed – in these ill-fated devices.

Those guidelines were in fact an integral part of the design language Metro – now replaced by Fluent Design – that has been used on the Xbox 360, the Xbox One, or Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

It is true that Windows 8 was criticized for the excessive prominence of the tactile interaction and the absence of the famous start button that returned with Windows 10, but that, as they say, is another story. The Zune failed before the iPod, but the legacy of its visual interface is still noticeable ten years after its launch, which is not little.

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