Seven Questions About the Zune HD

By  |  Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Zune HDBack on April 10th, our own Ed Oswald reported that he’d confirmed that the rumored Zune HD was real and would ship in the fall.  He spoke the truth–as Cnet’s Ina Fried is reporting, Microsoft confirmed today that it plans to release an iPod Touch-like Zune then. (The company has confirmed it’s called the Zune HD hasn’t yet said what the product’s name will be, or but hasn’t disclosed how much it will cost.)

The new Zune will have:

  • A touchscreen;
  • A 480-by-272  OLED display;
  • The ability to output HD content to a TV;
  • A built-in HD receiver.

That’s an intriguing list of specs, and enough to make it clear that Microsoft is building an iPod Touch rival, not a wannabee: While the form factor shown in the art Microsoft released is extremely Touch-esque, no Apple handheld has an OLED screen, HD radio, or HD video output.

Microsoft pre-announced just enough detail about the device to whet the appetite, so I’m left with more questions than answers. Such as the seven I ask after the jump.

1. Does this mean Zune is here for good? Fairly or unfairly, the name is profoundly tarnished at this point–it’s practically a synonym for “Unsuccessful Microsoft attempt to compete with the iPod.” I had wondered whether the company might retire the moniker in favor of the much more successful Xbox. Looks like I was wrong–you gotta think that if Microsoft doesn’t take this opportunity to rid itself of Zune, it doesn’t plan to. In fact, Ina’s piece says that it’s planning to launch a Zune-branded video service for the Xbox.

2. Will OLED still be big news in the fall? If the new Zune were in stores today, it would likely be a major selling point; I’ve never seen an OLED display that wasn’t very-nice-to-outstanding. But the fall is a long time from now, and Apple will almost certainly release new iPod Touches by September. I’m still wrestling with the rumors that the next iPhone will have an OLED display, but it’s plausible, at least, that the Touch will get one.

3. Will anyone care about HD radio? the technology’s been around for years now, and it’s still not entirely clear whether it’s ever going to catch on. (It’s already lost much of the head start it had in gaining traction before almost all entertainment goes IP-based.) I’m guessing that Microsoft won’t have to compete with an iPod Touch with HD radio, though: Adding it at this point just doesn’t seem like an Apple-esque thing to do.

4. Hey, what about apps? All advertising for the iPod Touch rightly focuses on the fact that there are scads of entertaining and/or useful applications for it. The new Zune will run a variant of Windows CE; we can assume that Microsoft will build an app store and encourage developers to build wares for it. But will it be possible to build apps as impressive as those enabled by iPhone OS? And even if it is, how many developers will jump on what will be a much smaller bandwagon than iPhone/iPod Tocuh, even if it’s quite successful?

5. Hey, what about content? Microsoft already has a decent Zune music store in the form of the Zune Pass service, but it still hasn’t built a full-blown movie and TV download service for the Zune. A Zune focused around HD will have to have one, but people will inevitable compare it to the iTunes Store that Apple has spent years building. And will you be able to watch content you buy or rent on any device other than a Zune–like, for instance, an Xbox? Microsoft isn’t saying.

6. Why is Microsoft announcing the new Zune now? Well, it’s Microsoft–announcing stuff months (or years) before it’s ready is what Microsoft does. Presumably, it would prefer to acknowledge that the new Zune exists than to deal with further leaks over the next few months. And maybe it’s confident enough that the Zune will compare favorably to next-generation iPod Touches that might show up sooner that it thinks some folks will forego a Touch for a Zune-to-come.

7. Does this mean the end of the current Zune line? Actually, Microsoft did answer this one: It’ll retire the current iPod Nano-like flash Zune models, but keep the hard-drive based ones on the market. But presumably the old-style hard disk-based Zune’s days are numbered, just as the iPod Classic’s are–it wouldn’t startle me if both quietly go away within the next year.

Any other questions, or stabs at answers?

 
40 Comments


Read more: , , ,

28 Comments For This Post

  1. smithee Says:

    This is the last major release of anything Zune branded that we’ll ever see and it will be a colossal failure.

    A clear app store strategy and wide game developer support is required to even consider competing against the iPod Touch.

    And HD Radio support is a major distinguishing feature? This is not how you compete with iTunes and Pandora.

    Expect to see the key Zune staff leave Microsoft or be reassigned over the next year. Zune is dead.

  2. zune-owner Says:

    @smithee

    Thank you nostrodamus!

    Microsoft really does need an app store story, but the music part of the current service through the zune software blows away what Apple has done.

  3. Tim F. Says:

    “It’ll retire the current iPod Nano-like flash Zune models, but keep the hard-drive based ones on the market. But presumably the old-style hard disk-based Zune’s days are numbered, just as the iPod Classic’s are–it wouldn’t startle me if both quietly go away within the next year.”

    And yet the HD-based model will remain as the Zune’s lowend model… which tells me, yes, if this isn’t a Pre-like Hail Mary, this is the last of the Zunes and/or Microsoft has no real interest in or understanding of the consumer media device market. Keeping big, clunky HD-based music players in the line as the lowend is like keeping the old hot dogs under the heat lamp at 7/11 for the next day for a quarter less.

    Apple wants to provide an offering from the cheap and miniscule to tiny and full-featured to capacious and full-featured to the next wave of personal UIs (iPhone, iPod Touch, future devices) on into the livingroom. Microsoft wants a toehold to clear 2 year old inventory, still hoping that their 20 million XBox userbase somehow provides them massive leverage a half decade down the road.

  4. Marty Says:

    Harry,

    I download HD movies onto my iPod Touch and Nano and watch them on my HD TV.

    Or at least I think I do. Are you sure Apple doesn’t have this?

  5. NanoGeek Says:

    What’s with using a text interface on such a large screen?
    I don’t get it.

  6. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Marty: I believe the Touch and Nano max out at 576P resolution–not high enough to be considered HD.

    –Harry

  7. Rob Blatt Says:

    I think Microsoft is adding movie and television show downloads through the XBox. From what it sounds like you might be able to sync your Zune to it, or else rebranding the store on the xbox was just straight up silly.

  8. Ian Dixon Says:

    It would be nice to see the Zune HD also working as a Windows Media Center Extender with the HDMI port it would make a great online/offline extender but I doubt we will see it

  9. tom b Says:

    “I had wondered whether the company might retire the moniker in favor of the much more successful Xbox.”

    Success is relative. They should have canned the Xbox division years ago: after sinking over 20 billion, the only have a handful of modestly profitable quarters to show for their efforts. And they’ll need to upgrade the hardware pretty soon, and that is a costly endeavor.

  10. personne Says:

    Aren’t current OLED screens kinda crappy in sunlight?

  11. Paul McCann Says:

    Firstly, people should understand that the HD in “HD Radio” stands for “Hybrid Digital”. This means that receivers gracefully downgrade to plain old analog FM when there’s no digital signal available. So what you have, is really just the next generation of FM.

    Why is this important? There are lots of people who still listen to radio, for news, sports, talk, music discovery. Not everyone is tethered to a PC or a WiFi or GSM connection. For me, the major selling point of an FM radio is the fact that my gym broadcasts TV sound on low power FM. Having the latest HD Radio variant is a nice added bonus.

  12. Tim F. Says:

    Paul, it doesn’t matter if anyone is suggesting radio is unimportant. It is. Well, let’s say it is. The question is: is it important that the Zune has radio? The asnwer is: no, everyone else has an FM receiver too, except for Apple which clearly hasn’t been hurt too much by that lack.

  13. jordin Says:

    “Success is relative. They should have canned the Xbox division years ago: after sinking over 20 billion, the only have a handful of modestly profitable quarters to show for their efforts. And they’ll need to upgrade the hardware pretty soon, and that is a costly endeavor.”

    Microsoft never planned to make money with the Xbox. It’s an investment to prevent Sony from encroaching on their territory. Sony’s plan has always been to turn the PlayStation platform into a complete multimedia hub that would largely make Windows irrelevant — and possibly hurt Apple even more, which is probably why Apple plays around with the idea of entering the video game market too once in a while. If Microsoft cared about making money on video games, they wouldn’t be so nice to Nintendo.

  14. Michael Burns Says:

    Well written article. I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work.

  15. 240hz LCD HDTV Says:

    Step into the future with this elegant high-quality 240hz LCD HDTV

  16. Antalya Evden Eve Nakliyat Says:

    very nice sites thanks

  17. udomphong moolsin Says:

    Have enjoy with new HDTV.

  18. cheap ipod nano Says:

    thx for this post!!I like it ^^

  19. cheap ipod classic Says:

    wow!! I love this post.thx for posting >_<!

  20. Akuya Says:

    I like this post.
    thank a lot.

  21. Joe Smith Says:

    Best article

  22. cheap ipod touch Says:

    Well written article.

    I really enjoyed it.

    Keep up the good work.

    :)

  23. okna Says:

    Thank you for this valuable and compact post.
    I have been using Zune for several days, but lately is not working properly. Any alternatives? Keep it up!

  24. Klipsch image s4 Says:

    This player is a joke compared to an iPod. You need alot of apps and a music download library to be able to challenge Apple's supremacy in this arena. What was Ballmer thinking?

  25. smithee Says:

    R.I.P. Microsoft Zune, 2006-2011 http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/14/r-i-p-microsoft-

  26. heiji Says:

    thanks for this good article..

  27. daveksmith123 Says:

    Thanks for your article on this site. From my own personal experience, many times softening upward a photograph could possibly provide the photographer with a bit of an imaginative flare. Often times however, this soft cloud isn\’t exactly what you had at heart and can sometimes spoil an otherwise good picture, especially if you intend on enlarging it.

    I have realized that in cameras, exceptional devices help to target automatically. Those kind of sensors with some cameras change in in the area of contrast, while others use a beam involving infra-red (IR) light, specifically in low lighting. Higher specs cameras from time to time use a mixture of both models and could have Face Priority AF where the digicam can \’See\’ your face as you concentrate only in that. Many thanks for sharing your opinions on this site.

    Thanks for this wonderful article. One other thing is that a lot of digital cameras come equipped with a new zoom lens that enables more or less of your scene to become included by simply \’zooming\’ in and out. All these changes in the aim length are generally reflected while in the viewfinder and on massive display screen at the back of your camera.

    I have come across that currently, more and more people are now being attracted to digital cameras and the discipline of picture taking. However, really being a photographer, you have to first invest so much time deciding the exact model of dslr camera to buy in addition to moving from

  28. Forced Matrix Rec Says:

    Harry McCracken,

    I have been in Multi-Level Marketing for over 12 years, this is some great stuff! Most people spend years trying to develop a group for their network marketing company and have little or no success and move on after a short period of time. This is largely due to lack of knowledge or support from their sponsor.

    I will be checking back here often and will try to contribute to this community on a regular basis. Thank you for all the hard work you do!

12 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Fine HD » Seven Questions About the Zune HD | Technologizer Says:

    [...] Seven Questions About the Zune HD | Technologizer VN:F [1.3.2_665]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast) Leave a comment | Trackback Related Posts And VideosNo Related Post Loading… @import url("http://www.google.com/uds/css/gsearch.css&quot;); window._uds_vbw_donotrepair = true; @import url("http://www.google.com/uds/solutions/videobar/gsvideobar.css&quot;); .playerInnerBox_gsvb .player_gsvb { width : 320px; height : 260px; } function LoadVideoBar() { var videoBar; var options = { largeResultSet : !true, horizontal : true, autoExecuteList : { cycleTime : GSvideoBar.CYCLE_TIME_MEDIUM, cycleMode : GSvideoBar.CYCLE_MODE_LINEAR, executeList : ["ytfeed:most_viewed.this_week","ytfeed:top_rated.this_week","ytfeed:recently_featured","ytchannel:High Definition","ytchannel:HD","ytchannel:technology","ytchannel:bluray","ytchannel:hdtv"] } } videoBar = new GSvideoBar(document.getElementById("videoBar-bar"), GSvideoBar.PLAYER_ROOT_FLOATING, options); } // arrange for this function to be called during body.onload // event processing GSearch.setOnLoadCallback(LoadVideoBar); No comments yet. [...]

  2. ¿Puede el Zune HD competir con el iPod touch? | Incognitosis Says:

    [...] complicado es, como dicen en Technologizer, que el Zune HD no parece llegar con un mercado de aplicaciones móviles, algo que diferencia [...]

  3. Microsoft teases with Zune HD preview | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] from Harry McCracken: Does this mean the end of the current Zune line? Actually, Microsoft did answer this one: It’ll [...]

  4. Top Posts « WordPress.com Says:

    [...] Seven Questions About the Zune HD Back on April 10th, our own Ed Oswald reported that he’d confirmed that the rumored Zune HD was real and would [...] [...]

  5. The Zune HD is Only HD to a Point | Technologizer Says:

    [...] marketing than it is about accurately describing a product’s capabilities. Microsoft’s upcoming Zune HD is the latest example of that trend. The Zune HD looks like it will delivera compelling evolution [...]

  6. Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer | Wood TV Stand Says:

    [...] Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer Posted by root 1 hour 43 minutes ago (http://technologizer.com) Brad joined the technologizer community leave a comment for inc technologizer is pleased to be powered by wordpress com and ning Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer [...]

  7. Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer | Menopause Relief Says:

    [...] Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer Posted by root 4 minutes ago (http://technologizer.com) Rating 0 0 10 0 votes cast leave a comment trackback related posts and a comment for inc technologizer is pleased to be powered by wordpress com Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Seven Questions About the Zune HD Technologizer [...]

  8. Analysts call for Microsoft to drop the Zune  | Technologizer Says:

    [...] is expected to ship the Zune HD, a touch screen interface device that offers high-def video output and radio, in the fall. Sales [...]

  9. Does the Zune HD Stand a Chance? | Technologizer Says:

    [...] all:&nbspNews Microsoft has announced that the Zune HD is hitting stores on September 15th at prices that significantly undercut Apple’s iPod Touch, [...]

  10. Five Questions About the PS3 Slim | Technologizer Says:

    [...] all:&nbspNews I’m taking a page from Harry here, as I know he likes prodding on upcoming products when their makers intentionally ignore salient questions. With Sony [...]

  11. This is Not a Zune HD Review | Technologizer Says:

    [...] all:&nbspNews Microsoft’s Zune HD–the first touch-screen version of the company’s non-iPod-killing media [...]

  12. Top 20 Tech Underdogs - Windows 7 Center Forums Says:

    [...] [...]