Microsoft is discontinuing its line of Zune media players but will continue delivering Zune content services.
"Going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy," Microsoft said on its Zune player support page this week.
By contrast, Apple is clearly doubling down on its market-leading lineup of iPods. The company announced major updates of its iPod Touch and iPod Nano models on Tuesday at the same media event during which the company unveiled its new iPhone 4S model.
Among other things, users of the iPod Touch will be able to automatically and wirelessly store their personal content in Apple's iCloud service as well as push it to other computing devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC. "When content changes on one device, all your other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly," Apple said Tuesday.
Apple's iPod Nano Upgrade
Apple's new iPod Touch will be offered at $199, $299, and $399 for the 8 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB models, respectively, beginning Oct. 12 -- the same day Apple will launch its latest upgrade to iOS, iOS5, and its new iCloud service. Moreover, Apple's upgraded iPod Nano with multi-touch capabilities is available now at a price of $129 for the 8 GB model and $149 for the 16 GB model.
Among other things, the new iPod Nano ships with the Nike+ fitness training app as an integral feature, with no additional sensors required to track the time, pace and distance of a run, or the number of calories burned. The device also will enable users to choose from among 16 new digital clock faces, ranging from classic analog looks to favorite Disney characters like Mickey or Minnie Mouse.
Some industry observers had speculated that Apple might be ready to discontinue its iPod Shuffle and iPod Classic models, and perhaps even introduce a new iPod Touch 3G. However, Apple said Tuesday it would continue selling the iPod Shuffle at $49 as well as a 160 GB version of the iPod Classic priced at $249.
The Clear Market Leader
As Apple's recent iPod shipment numbers demonstrate, the iPod continues to be a significant part of the company's revenues. At the company's media event on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said Apple now controls a 78 percent share of the global music player market. Additionally, the company has shipped more than 320 million iPods since the first model was introduced in October 2001.
Though Apple sold 9 million iPods during the company's latest business quarter, unit shipments declined 20 percent year over year. Still, Apple managed to ship 19.45 million iPods during last year's holiday shopping season and believes its refreshed Touch and Nano models will help drive sizable sales during the final three months of 2011.
Still, during the coming holiday shopping season Apple's iPod models will face stiff competition from the company's own iPhone offerings, which likewise integrate music and video playback capabilities. Pricing on the new iPhone 4S will start at $199, and Apple's wireless partners will be offering the older iPhone 4 for just $99 as well as the iPhone 3GS for free when subscribers sign up for two-year service contracts.