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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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RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By Brandon Hill on 5/27/2009 7:37:40 AM , Rating: 2
He could have a ton of movies on it too -- I use my iPod touch to watch movies on long plane rides.

However, I couldn't possibly listen to that much music. I've got 222 albums taking up 19.4GB on my 32GB iPod touch 2G and that seems pretty excessive to me :)

It's also why I'm holding out on a 32GB iPhone next month so I'll have room for my music and some videos -- and then be able to go down from two devices (cell phone + iPod touch) to just one.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By TejTrescent on 5/27/2009 7:44:09 AM , Rating: 3
That's my second biggest complaint--if these max out at 32GB, I'll probably just get a Zune 120 instead. I love my Zune 30, but to get my music to fit on it I have to put it on the device at 96kbps tops.

And that leaves enough room to put barely two movies, as well.

My largest complaint is I seem to be the only person who likes physical buttons on devices anymore, sigh. Maybe it's too much to ask to be able to change the song and volume without looking.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By Bender 123 on 5/27/2009 7:56:48 AM , Rating: 3
I think you miss the point with this type of player. I have a Zune 80 and a Touch 16. I actually use them for completely different things. The Zune is great for a media player and portable library of music, the Touch replaces the Lappy 486 for short trips to the folks house or starbucks...It plays media, but I almost treat it more like a small "internet lite" device. The eventual apps and browser will make or break this thing...Same goes for the Zune phones that will be coming.

If these devices have browsers as crappy as WinMo, they will fail...hard...If they have a decent browser and app support, they just might make people pay attention to Zune. I cant wait to see what they offer.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By omnicronx on 5/27/2009 8:41:30 AM , Rating: 2
If these devices have browsers as crappy as WinMo, they will fail...hard...
Yawn.. While I don't use it yet as it is not quite ready for primetime, PIE 6.0 from Windows Mobile 6.5 RC is looking REALLY good... It already supports flash and other plugins, and has the potential to be quite good.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By Mitch101 on 5/27/2009 9:41:08 AM , Rating: 2
I have a Zune 30 and a Sandisk and like you use them for different tasks.

The Sandisk I use for the gym. Its small and has an arm strap. The music on my Sandisk doesn't change that often. I maybe plug it in to add or remove a few songs once a month.

The Zune 30 I do a lot of PodCasts and listen to them when I am at work or in the car. If needed I can put a few movies on it and let the kids use it on longer trips and output the video through the DVD player in the van on the AUX input. But this is standard definition stuff. Between Music, Pictures, Digital Cam Movies, Movies, Podcasts I only use about 20gig.

I guess if your going to do 720P content you need something more than 32gig. I would go for a 64gig unit myself.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By Locutus465 on 5/27/2009 5:08:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not so sure I would use it for this purpose, I mean I already have a smart phone for that. But it would be admitingly nice to have a nifty multi-touch gadget like this compatible with my Zune service. So I would have a Zune 8 for the gym (currently owned) then perhaps maybe this gadget just so I can have a meatier zune with nifty capabilities.

Though I do wish they'd offer a version with HDD and higher capacities.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By PrezWeezy on 5/27/2009 7:06:54 PM , Rating: 2
I think it would be good if they put a volume pad like they do on the T-Mobile Dash. Or even a scroll wheel like on some WinMo phones. I agree that physical buttons are awesome and I hate the iPhone/Touch for that exact reason. I want a keyboard with buttons. I have fat fingers with which the iPhone never can seem to understand which letter I'm attempting to type.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By CZroe on 5/28/2009 2:54:03 AM , Rating: 3
Then what you should be demanding is A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile AKA "Stereo Bluetooth") with AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile). The second-generation iPod touch has it and it will be opened up with the iPhone OS 3.0 software they will be releasing this summer. Honestly, WiFi should have come AFTER A2DP/AVRCP and I was complaining about that when the first Zune launched.

As for higher capacities, we should all be demanding expandable memory. Apple won't do it because fixed capacities and non-serviceable batteries enforce their upgrade cycle.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By smegz on 5/27/2009 1:17:35 PM , Rating: 2
I got my eye on a 32GB iPhone next month too. Like you I got a full 32GB iPod Touch and just can't see myself going backwards in capacity. Be nice if they bumped it to 64GB, but based on their track record, iPod touch will get that bump before the iPhone does.

RE: I want 240GB+ capacities
By Brandon Hill on 5/27/2009 7:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, I see this happening:

32GB, 16GB iPhone (same price point as current 16GB and 8GB models)
64GB, 32GB, 16GB iPod touch (same price point as current 32GB, 16GB, and 8GB models)

"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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