Retro enthusiasts Hyperkin want to revive Microsoft's Zune (maybe?)

Zune HD
Zune HD (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Hyperkin is an electronics company that typically make rad gaming accessories.
  • The company recently tweeted @Xbox that they'd like to revive Microsoft's deceased music player, the Zune.
  • It might be a joke... but?

The year is 2006. The 90s haven't quite fully dissipated yet, but they're on the way out, as a new era of sleek new digital smart devices begin to proliferate across the globe. Apple's iPhone was about to launch, as a big follow up to their wildly successful iPod music platform. The iPhone redefined digital media consumption as we know it, forever, and unfortunately for Microsoft, their Zune player was perhaps a little too late to the party.

While it got caught in the rapid death of the mp3 player, the Zune was a remarkable product for its time, with a sleek interface, powered by a great music service. The design language of the Zune would eventually get incorporated into Windows Phone, and disseminated across Windows itself in various forms. Even in Windows 11, some of its influence can still be felt.

Nowadays, most people simply use their smartphones coupled with a streaming music service like Spotify to get their music fix on the go, but some retro methods have been making a comeback. Vinyl records have begun outselling CDs for the first time since the 80s, as people seek a classic experience that digital mediums simply cannot replicate.

Spotify has found itself in hot water lately over the political content of some of the podcasts on its service, which has led to discussions across social media about the value of some of these streaming platforms and services. It's no secret that Spotify and others pay artists absurdly low amounts for streaming their content, much of which go straight to record labels rather than creators themselves.

Could the humble mp3 player make a comeback? Probably not, although Apple still does sell the iPod, it's practically the only one on the market that still does sell. Is there a timeline where Zune makes a comeback?

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Accessory manufacturer Hyperkin is known to Xbox fans for their revival of the classic Xbox OG Duke controller, and today, the team was caught tweeting @Xbox, about possibly reviving an old friend.

Sure, it's most likely a joke... but what if?! Would you pick up a modern Zune to digitize your music collection? Are there enough Zune fans out there to justify it? Sound off in the comments, and who knows? Maybe Hyperkin and Microsoft will hook up on the most unlikely comeback this side of a new Windows phone.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I still use my Zune HD docked into the Kicker speaker doc in my "workout" room. I need to install the Zune software onto another PC one of the days (the PC I last had it installed on has been decommissioned) so that I can update the contents of the Zune HD. I typically use my phone for music when out and about, but I'd love to see the Zune and Zune software revived!
  • Make it about the size of a cassette... that would be appealing.
  • Make it the size of a cassette AND usable in a cassette player, lol
  • Enough with the Spotify comments, speech is attacked from all directions by anyone seeking to control it. The only hot water Spotify is in is from people who want to impose limits on those who do not see the world the way they do.
  • Sir, this article is about the Zune player.
    Moving on...
  • why so sensitive?
  • It's annoying when people try to make this a bigger thing than it was. Rogan didn't do anything wrong and Spotify hosting his podcast least of all.
  • Maybe he doesn't like that you used an unrelated comment to inject your own political interests into the article.
  • I would absolutely LOVE and BUY a new Zune HD.
    The features I'd most like to see:
    * MicroSD slot
    * Bluetooth - keep the 3.5mm jack for compatibility and nostalgia
    * USB C charging and data transfer
    * Beautiful modern screen
    What would you most like to see in a modern Zune?
  • I never got to own the sleek newer Zune machines. I had the older Toshiba-based Zune machine. A great MP3 player. they could modernize it by making it a Spotify player/Xbox Game Pass machine.
  • I definitely will be interested. I still have my Zune HD.
  • I would most definitely buy a Zune
  • If it was running Android, heavily skinned to match the Zune interface... Yeah I'm buying it. Hyperkin, get that Kickstarter going now!
  • I'd buy it day one. I loved my ZUNE.
  • Actually, yes...
    The music world has dramatically changed in the last 20 years so a new standalone music player could indeed thrive...
    ...if it focused on how people get and use music *today*. Otherwise it is just a one-of novelty play. First off, I has to be a high end product: the low and mid markets are served just fine by phones. Lossless capable is a given.
    Second, it has to be focused on streaming first, mp3 second. See above.
    Third, it has to be service agnostic which, yes, means reskinned android. Custom apps if necessary to allow local caching for disconnected use and AI for custom on-the-fly playlists. SSD storage a given.
    Fourth, two models; Low-end, wifi only; high end, standalone wireless.
    Fifth, it should have a community app much like Amazon's Goodreads to enable discoverability and social engagement. ( "Hey XXX, look what I just found!") This app should have matching phone and PC apps at a minimum. Add it up and you have the spirit of Zune in 2025 tech. Thing is, this can't be done via kickstarter. Which means "service agnostic" goes out the back door. Amazon can do it. Surprised they haven't as they have all the pieces and more: Audible and Kindle. First prototype in weeks. Tie it to PRIME. Apple could but iPod is an afterthought these days. They wouldn't bother. Microsoft could. They need it, too, for a third try at consumer hardware beyond gaming.
    Because I'm evil, first step would be to buy Spotify which is marginally profitable and needs a sugar daddy and a better focus than just cheap music. If they want to go cheap Pandora would do but Spotify has the bigger footprint. MS has everything else, loves subscriptions, and it would be a *real* Zune, not just a tribute band. More, by tying it to subscription, they could do premium hardware at (slightly) subsidized prices. And put it on Surface Duo and XBOX. Con's?
    Music by itself is low margin. A premium music player needs a premium subscription tie to be long term profitable. (Ad supported won't fly. Hence no google or Facebook.)
    The AI recommendation engine needs to be brilliant.
    And a music community app would be running into the fractional music groups all over.
    Success not guaranteed.
  • Smartphone ticks all those boxes; why create another device to further bulk up a pocket or purse?
  • Same reason eReaders still exist. A dedicated device can concentrate on it's core use case, and allow the user to concentrate/enjoy that aspect of their life.
  • Nailed it.
    Single function devices (ereaders, cameras, computer monitors) can be optimized for that one function.
  • Smartphones are only good for personal listening. When connected to a speaker it is a horrible experience. Anything happens on the phone the music is interrupted. If it rings or you need to use the phone you have to stop the music. A separate device is so much better for listening to music at home with other people or when having a party.
  • That's a very good point. It's very irritating when you're listening, and the music gets the volume drop, notification, then volume back to normal.
  • This is pointless considering the fact that anyone can buy a DAP. The only thing a Zune HD can do that any other device can't do was play HD radio.
  • That's exactly what I still use mine for. Receiving the HD Radio signal.
  • True...if all you do is play mp3s.
    A new Zune needs to aspire to more. And it can.
  • My Zune HD died years ago. But I would be interested in a new Zune
  • "Zune" and "rad" in the first few sentences. The '90s want their Northgate keyboard back, Dad.
  • If all they did was something akin to a replica of the old product, asking MS for the source code to the players, I expect it would be a failure. The Zune was behind the times when it released, and the only thing kind of going for it now is that phones have started taking away their headphone jacks. Most would probably agree that has led to a greater adoption of Bluetooth headphones than a desire for old school MP3 players, so the market would be niche (not that it stopped Hyperkin from finding success with their Duke controllers). I kept my LG G8 around when I got my Surface Duo because of the headphone jack use in my car. If they could produce an updated device that included Bluetooth (for those who want it) and quality audio to match/exceed what users' phones give, I might be interested. If it's worse than keeping my old phone as a music player, it wouldn't make much sense. A skinned version of Android to let it access music apps like Spotify would probably be their greatest chance at being relevant.
  • I'm in Heck I'm checking ebay for an old one next.
  • I still have my Zune HD 32. I use it as an HD Radio receiver. There are people out there, though, that don't even know HD Radio exists (in medium to large markets)
  • Or have a different standard like we do in Europe. Main reason I brought my ZuneHD to Canada and the US during my holidays there, just to finally see the HD logo appear on the Zune.
  • I still have and use a 16GB Zune HD and a brown Zune 30. Thankfully, the Zune desktop software runs well on Windows 10 (but a Win 10 update removed the codecs necessary to convert/sync videos). I have Win 7 running in a VM so that I can sync video to them. It would be terrific if Hyperkin would revive the Zune. But not just the hardware. Bring back the Zune Social.
    The software would need to be refreshed as well. Back in the day, I and a few others decyphered the software and were able to customize it for dark mode and add functionality like "mood" settings. I don't know how many others would be interested in such a revival... probably not enough to make it worth the effort. In any event, I'll continue to enjoy the Zune.
  • I think what I like the most about the Zune was the integration with the app on the PC. If they were paired, it would update your content and playlists overnight, over WiFi, as the Zune sat in the charging cradle. You didn't have to 'connect' it to the PC, or start anything. The Zune software also dynamically managed your content, updating, most listened, new acquisitions, etc. That was automatically transferred to the Zune HD. I do miss the Service, as well as the device.
  • Just install ZPlayer on Android. *I am the developer
  • Based and self promotion pilled.
  • What's the point? What am I missing? We have smartphones. 🤔
  • Had a buddy that absolutely loved his, until it crapped out from years of abuse. He uses an old smartphone for the same purposes now, that he calls Zune 2.0, lol. It works, but he preferred the Zune.
    I would take a serious look at a new version. And heck, maybe get myself a used one