Zune HD team tells apps beta testers that program is closing, directs users to Windows Phone

Get ready for more “Zune is dead” headlines (never mind that Microsoft recently made changes to the Zune Pass — ahem, Zune Music Pass). More sensibly, the blogosphere might cry out that the Zune HD itself is dead.

Microsoft sent out a mass email to all of the users in its Zune HD Apps Beta Test Program late Friday to announce that the program is indeed closing down, basically effective immediately. The company acknowledged that many apps were created with mass appeal but they will no longer need to continue with it. Recently, the founder of the Beta Program, Dave McLauchlan, left the company to begin working on his startup company Buddy. Whether Microsoft has closed the program because of McLauchlan’s departure or because they have decided to not create any more Zune HD applications is not clear.

In the email, however, Microsoft states the “push to publish a rich selection of apps for Zune HD [is] complete” and mentions they “hope [users will] consider engaging with Windows Phone.”

The email is available in its entirety below, thanks to our source who wishes to remain anonymous:

Back in February, we initiated a new program to enable the Zune HD community to participate in the final development of applications and games for Zune HD. This program, the “Zune HD Apps/Games Beta Test Program” has been enormously successful, due to the contributions of participants such as yourself. With your help, we’ve managed to quickly publish a wide range of high quality applications for Zune HD, applications which have been very well received by the broader community.

With this push to publish a rich selection of apps for Zune HD complete, the beta test program has served its purpose and is now closed. Given your strong enthusiasm for the Zune HD product and your proven track record as an active participant in the beta program, we hope you’ll also consider engaging with Windows Phone.

On behalf of the entire team, thank you for your efforts over the past 6 months. We couldn’t have published the quality of apps and games that we did without your help.

Best wishes,

Zune HD Team