There's no way to look at Zune as anything other than the tech version of a Greek tragedy. It began badly, with a bizarre egotistical hubris emanating from the Zune team that vastly outweighed the product's actual value. And it ended--is now ending, in fact--with a whimper, with Microsoft quietly and secretly scaling back on Zune over the past few years and erasing the brand and its associated products and services in the process.

But here's the thing: Between its awful genesis and its sad ending, when virtually no one was paying any attention at all, Zune rocked. The hardware, the software, and the services were innovative, fun, and better than anything offered over on the far more popular Apple side of the fence. While the world utterly ignored  it, Zune turned into something wonderful, something truly unique. And I became a fan, and an advocate, of a platform that started out as a joke.

This first of two Zune retrospectives covers the first half of Zune's lifecycle, from late 2006 to mid-2008, a period during which Zune matured from a sad, me-too product into a full-fledged, innovative product line of its own. I went from Zune critic to Zune user and advocate during this period, and my growing excitement over the Zune platform explains the sheer amount of time and effort I devoted to it.

Zune was like a shooting star, quick and bright, and over too soon. But I'll never forget it.

Zune 2.5 Review - May 8, 2008

Check out all of the new functionality in the latest Zune update in my review of Zune 2.5.

Zune 2.5 Screenshot Gallery - May 6, 2008

Check out the new features in the latest Zune update in my Zune 2.5 screenshot gallery.

Can Microsoft Save the Zune? - January 6, 2008

OK, the holidays are over and Microsoft hasn't made a dent in the iPod's market share. Is it too late, or can Microsoft still save the Zune?

Zune 2 Review, Part 4: Zune 80 - November 27, 2007

My multi-part Zune 2 review wraps up with a look at the Zune 80, Microsoft's answer to the iPod classic and touch

Zune 80 Photo Gallery - November 26, 2007

They're hard to find, but here's a photo gallery of the Zune 80, the new high-end version of Microsoft's portable digital media player.

Zune 2 Review, Part 3: Zune 4/8 - November 17, 2007

Microsoft has a winner on its hands: The new Zune 4/8 digital media player is the equal of Apple's iPod nano.

Zune 2 Review, Part 2: Services - November 14, 2007

In the second part of my Zune 2 review, I look at Zune Marketplace and Zune Social.

Zune 8 Photo Gallery - November 13, 2007

See the newest member of the Zune family in this photo gallery: It's the 8 GB, flash-based Zune 8.

Zune 2 Screenshot Gallery - November 13, 2007

Check out the gorgeous new Zune 2 PC software in this extensive screenshot gallery.

Zune 2 Review, Part 1: Software - November 13, 2007

In the first part of my Zune 2 review, I examine the Zune 2 device firmware and PC software.

Zune 2 Photo Gallery - October 3, 2007

Check out Microsoft's new portable media players and various accessories in this extensive Zune 2 photo gallery.

Zune 2 Preview - October 2, 2007

Microsoft announced the new Zunes for 2007 and I've got all the details in this special preview.

Microsoft Zune Travel Pack Photo Gallery - December 28, 2006

Here's a look at the Travel Pack for the Zune MP3 player, which includes premium earbud headphones, a charging and sync cable, a power adapter, and a nice carrying case.

Microsoft Zune Home A/V Pack Photo Gallery - December 13, 2006

Here's a look at the Travel Pack for the Zune MP3 player, which includes a dock, remote control, audio/video cables, and a charging and syncing cable.

Zunestory - December 11, 2006

You've read the news stories about Microsoft's bid to sell one million Zunes by mid-2007, now read the inside story about Microsoft's approach to competing with the iPod!

Microsoft Zune Review - November 27, 2006

Microsoft's "iPod killer" has a lot to learn about being competitive: Find out more in my Microsoft Zune review.

Microsoft Zune Photo Gallery: The Unboxing - November 14, 2006

Check out Microsoft's latest attempt at an iPod Killer in my Microsoft Zune Hands-On photo gallery.

Microsoft Zune Screenshot Gallery - November 14, 2006

Here are some screenshots of the Zune PC software, which is essentially a skinned and customized version of Windows Media Player.