Microsoft has released nine new Zune HD apps: Finger Paint, Calendar, Trash Throw, Slider Puzzle, ColorSpill, Splatter Bug, Vine Climb, Decoder Ring, and Tug-O-War. Microsoft also updated the following Zune HD apps: Shuffle by Album, Zune Reader, Penalty! Flick Soccer, Email, and Echoes.

There has been talk for quite a while now that Microsoft is getting ready to kill off the Zune. The company has been viciously denying speculation that it will clear out inventory of the stock it has, and stop producing more units of the various Zune models. There still hasn't been any news about a retail store running out of stock yet, but the rumor suggesting that Microsoft will kill off the Zune hardware and focus instead on just the software, is one that just won't die.

This is the first piece of news that would suggest Microsoft is not denying the rumor just for the sake of doing so. The other recent good news in the Zune world has been a tidbit regarding a possible upcoming Zune Music expansion. Everything else we've heard so far indicated the Zune hardware could indeed go away.

Last month, Microsoft killed its Zune Originals storefront, which has been available since November 2007. Two months ago, we learned that Microsoft would be porting at least some of its Zune HD apps to Windows Phone. Three months ago, the software giant slashed the prices for two (out of three) Zune HD models: the 16GB to $170 (from $200) and the 32GB to $200 (from $270).

Even if Redmond does end up killing off the Zune HD, it's clear that it wants to keep supporting its existing customers. That's certainly something we can't complain about.