Is Microsoft Getting Closer to Killing the Zune Brand?S

As much as I hate to say it, the Zune is more or less dead. It's been a year and a half since we've seen a redesign, and though Zune hardware has always been quality, Microsoft seems to have refocused their handheld efforts behind WP7 (with rumors of an Xbox-branded device). But there's also Microsoft's Zune store/distribution platform to consider, which is also good (even if it's Windows-only). According to Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft seems to be working on the successor to the Zune distribution platform, and it's codenamed Ventura:

"Ventura, from what my tipsters tell me, is the name of a set of services being developed by Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices (E&D) unit. These services are focused on music and video discovery and consumption. They sound, from my sources, as though they include recommendations, ratings and comments."

This would make sense. Without the Zune name attached, Microsoft could promote the service more widely across all their products—computers, Xboxes, phones, etc.—with minimal confusion. And for the most part, it sounds like it will have some of the same discovery features as the Zune desktop software, which was pretty cool. Personally, I just hope they don't confine the service to the Windows platform and lock content down behind Windows Media DRMs. [ZDnet via CrunchGear]