If you only have hazy memories of the Zune, Microsoft's foray into the mp3 player market, you're not alone. The device was discontinued in 2011, and today it's mostly the butt of Apple fans' jokes. But Farhad Manjoo got his hands on one of the 2009-era touchscreen Zunes, and has written a glowing review in Slate. Why? "The Zune wasn’t as complete a failure as you may believe," he writes, and it lives on in both tangible and intangible ways in the new Windows 8 and Surface tablet.
Not only is the player "handsome" (unlike Apple's "cutesy" devices), it's innovative. He credits it, along with the Xbox, as helping turn around Microsoft's fortunes by showing that the company can do more than just mimic Apple products. For one thing, the Zune's user interface (including the "brilliant" Segoe font) informs the "design aesthetic" of subsequent rollouts, including Windows 8. So why did the Zune fail? It was just as good as the iPod, but to survive in the market, it needed to "make Apple’s device look pitifully old-fashioned." It didn't, so for now, rest in peace, little Zune. Read the full column here. (Read more Zune stories.)