Microsoft has quietly confirmed that it will no longer be producing its Zune HD MP3 player and that Windows Phone devices will be the future of its media strategy.

The news was revealed by a support article on Microsoft’s Zune help pages, WinRumors reports.

While far from an official announcement, it follows Microsoft’s removal of Zune HD references from its website earlier this week (which have since been restored). It’s clear that the Zune hardware is as good as dead to Microsoft.

The MP3 player’s official death has been expected for most of the year. In March, a report claimed that Microsoft wouldn’t be  producing new Zune hardware. Lo and behold, there were no new Zunes announced this year.

That makes sense, of course. The Zune was never a big seller for Microsoft, and right now it needs to focus all of its energy on making Windows Phone a success. Eventually, we may see an iPod Touch-like Windows Phone device that could serve as a future Zune.

Microsoft started off slow with the ugly first-generation Zune, but with its sleeker second-generation Zune, I thought it had delivered a worthy iPod alternative. And no matter how you look at it, the Zune HD is a gorgeous little media player — one that perhaps came too late to make a difference for Microsoft.

As I wrote in March, Zune’s software legacy will continue to live on. The Zune HD’s flashy interface served as the basis for Windows Phone 7′s gorgeous “Metro” user interface, and Zune’s impact has also made its way to Microsoft’s Xbox 360. It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft’s Zune software is among the best media players on Windows, especially compared to iTunes. The Zune desktop software will continue to serve as the way Windows Phone 7 owners synchronize their devices.