SEATTLE Microsoft Corp is not planning any more versions of its unpopular Zune digital media player, but is to continue offering music and video using the same software online, through its Xbox game console and on its Windows phones.
The decision not to further develop the handheld device effectively ends Microsoft's 4-1/2-year bid to unseat Apple Inc's iPod, which revolutionized the portable music market in 2001.
"We have nothing to announce about another Zune device," a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed response to questions about the Zune. Bloomberg earlier reported that the company had decided to stop producing them.
He said Zune devices would still be supported in North America, and that Zune software would play a part in Microsoft's other offerings.
"Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms, and we remain committed to providing a great music and video experience with the Zune service."
Microsoft's two Zune player models are still available, at discounted prices, on the company's shopping website. The 16 gigabyte version costs $170 and the 32 gigabyte version costs $200, one-third cheaper than a comparable iPod Touch.
The devices, which have a small but devoted fan base, play music and video downloaded via the Zune Marketplace, Microsoft's answer to Apple's iTunes.
Many technology experts regard the Zune as a superior product to Apple's iPod, but analysts agree that it came five years too late to unseat Apple's commanding lead in the music market.
(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Gary Hill)