In Pictures: The good, bad and ugly history of Microsoft hardware

Microsoft built its identity on software development. Just refer to the name, and pay special attention to the "soft." But throughout its storied history, the company has progressively become much more of a multi-discipline workshop, producing physical gear alongside ethereal software code. And now we have the Surface RT tablet, the perfect springboard to recount some of the most memorable (and forgettable) products in Microsoft's hardware history.

2006: Zune

This is where things got really, really bad.

Zune is Microsoft's digital media store, the answer to Apple's iTunes. But with the launch of the service in 2006, Microsoft also launched a 30GB portable media player, also known as Zune, to compete with Apple's iPod. And almost immediately, the Zune player became a meme encapsulating hardware failure.

Undeterred, Microsoft followed the original Zune with two generations of hardware and three generations of software, offering games, song tagging, varying capacities, social features, on-device purchases and eventually an OLED touch screen with the release of the Zune HD in 2009.

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