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Microsoft's Zune HD steps into the limelight

It appears that all the rumors and pictures from the last month regarding the Zune HD were right. Microsoft last night announced its next generation Zune and it appears that the boys from Redmond are finally ready to start taking the fight to Apple's iPod touch.

The angular device packs a 3.3" 16:9 OLED display with a resolution of just 480 x 272. Thankfully, the touchscreen includes multi-touch which currently resides on such devices as the Apple iPhone, iPod touch, and Palm Pre. The Zune HD also brings with it HD radio and is capable of 720p video-out via HDMI with a docking station.

The only other hardware detail that Microsoft announced was the inclusion of Wi-Fi which has always been a Zune staple. In this case, however, a full-screen multi-touch web browser will also be included (and hopefully an email client and various other internet-based utilities).

Microsoft didn't divulge any information on storage capacities for the new Zune HD, but earlier reports pegged the devices launching in 16GB and 32GB capacities. Hopefully, this isn't the case as Apple is near certain to release its next generation iPod touch early this fall in capacities of up to 64GB which would leave the Zune HD trailing behind.

"The Zune music player is an integral part of the overall Zune experience, and we're proud to be growing and extending our offering beyond the device," said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV, Video and Music Business Group. "Delivering on Microsoft's connected entertainment vision, this news marks a turning point for Zune as it brings cross-platform experiences and premium video content to living rooms around the world."

Microsoft's first and second attempts at taking on Apple with its Zune range didn't do much to challenge the iPod's dominance of the marketplace. However, Microsoft appears to have a real chance of scoring some major points with consumers with the Zune HD -- that is if they can manage to keep storage capacities at a lofty level.

The Zune HD will launch this fall.

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With an App Store?
By ltcommanderdata on 5/27/2009 7:15:30 AM , Rating: 3
So did they mention anything about an App Store like Apple since that is really a feature more critical than the HD moniker?

And any idea what OS it'll be running. I thought it was mentioned somewhere that it might be a Windows CE variant. Hopefully it'll be much improved.

In any case, Zune HD will be competing against 3rd gen iPod Touch and iPhone OS 3.0, so things might get interesting. The next iPod Touch seems to be focused more on video with an integrated camera and video editing features rather than "HD"-ness.

RE: With an App Store?
By psychobriggsy on 5/27/2009 7:28:04 AM , Rating: 2
So this will be available to buy in the Autumn? September? October? Talk about blowing your load early. At least Apple announce devices that you can go out and buy within a short period.

Still, it means that Apple can't not use OLED in their June/July refresh this year, and that's what competition is all about. I also hope that Apple will sort out the video output from the iPhone/Touch to have more than 480i output - 720p would be good. The new SoC in the iPhone is meant to use a faster Cortex A8 CPU and more RAM, so maybe the integrated graphics are upgraded to support HD resolutions.

So that leaves the digital radio feature as the unique selling point - and in Europe it would have to be DAB or nobody will be interested.

RE: With an App Store?
By omnicronx on 5/27/2009 8:35:26 AM , Rating: 2
So that leaves the digital radio feature as the unique selling point
What about wireless sync out of the box? I like the fact that the ipod/iphone has tons of accessories but I can't live without wireless sync. I have a smoke before I go to work in the morning and sync straight from my car.

RE: With an App Store?
By jelifah on 5/27/2009 8:55:59 AM , Rating: 2
++ to Wireless sync.

When the Zune was originally announced I was VERY excited to hear about Wireless sync. But, after seeing the execution was still tied to a computer, ended up being disappointed. In fact I've been itching to get an iPhone/iTouch primarily because of this feature, when my cell contract ends. If the Zune HD can truly deliver on wireless sync they may get my money instead.

RE: With an App Store?
By omnicronx on 5/27/2009 11:22:55 AM , Rating: 2
If you listen to a lot of podcasts like I do, the zune software downloads these automatically and adds them to your queue. So every morning I have something new to listen too without any intervention whatsoever.

RE: With an App Store?
By Natfly on 5/27/2009 11:10:07 AM , Rating: 2
And any idea what OS it'll be running. I thought it was mentioned somewhere that it might be a Windows CE variant. Hopefully it'll be much improved.

Here's an article from CNet that that says it'll be running a version of Windows CE with a special touch version of IE.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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