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Microsoft removes, then re-adds Zune HD to its website [u]

Microsoft temporarily removed references to all Zune hardware from the official Zune website Monday, an apparent error that was initially viewed as the final nail in the coffin for the media player that failed to gain traction against Apple's iPod lineup [update].

As first noted by tech journalist Ed Bott, Microsoft's website was updated on Monday to remove all references to devices. Instead, the website simply promoted Zune Music Pass and Zune software on various platforms including Windows Phone and Xbox Live.

Update: But later Monday, the site was updated and the Zune HD hardware appeared on the site once again. A spokesperson for Microsoft told Bott the removal of the device from the page was a "mistake."

Microsoft last updated its Zune hardware in 2009 with the Zune HD, which aimed to take on Apple's iPod touch with an OLED multi-touch screen and access to the $15-per-month unlimited download Zune Pass service. The Zune HD sold at launch for $220 for a 16GB model, and $290 for 32GB.

Microsoft has yet to officially announce that the Zune HD has been discontinued, but it's a logical step as the market for devoted media players continues to shrink with more powerful smartphones offering the same or better functionality in a multi-purpose device.

As the iPhone has gained in popularity, iPod sales have continued to dwindle for Apple, and this year its flagship devoted media player, the iPod touch, is not expected to see any major changes aside from the availability of a new white model. There have also been claims and some evidence that Apple will soon discontinue its aging iPod classic and iPod shuffle.

Reports first began to surface in March that Microsoft planned to abandon its line of Zune media players, first launched in 2006. Bloomberg cited anonymous sources who indicated Microsoft would shift the Zune brand toward its music store and subscription software, which will is available through handsets running its Windows Phone mobile operating system.