The Zune brand, Microsoft's portable media player answer to Apple's hugely popular iPod family, could well be on its way out as the Redmond giant accelerates plans to converge siloed services.
Despite Microsoft's attempt, the Zune has never been truly successful. It always had better hardware than the iPod Touch against which it was directly pitted but failed to capture customers' imagination due to a number of issues.
Critically - and for unknown reasons - Microsoft never sold the Zune outside the US unlike Apple. Ironically, killing the Zune as a standalone product could give Microsoft the ideal opportunity to offer the perfect music service on Windows Phone 7 handsets.
This is something that Apple will hesitate to do in order not to harm the iPod and iTunes product range, whose contribution to Apple's revenues is decreasing in terms of percentage; this may provide Microsoft with a short-lived window of opportunity.
There's also Zunepass, the fixed fee, unlimited music service that Microsoft offers to US customers. Should it be available to Windows Phone 7 AND customers outside the US, Microsoft will have a decent chance of challenge Apple's hegemony in the smartphone and portable media player markets in one go.
Matt Rosoff from Cnet (opens in new tab) reckons that Microsoft could use Zune to create the ultimate mobile music service by aligning Zune with Windows Phone 7.