As someone with a moderate amount of interest in the Zune community, I feel obligated to comment on the Zune HD confirmation finally issued by Microsoft. While the full details of the device and its capabilities have yet to be revealed, what is known is shown below:
- 3.3″ 480×272 (16:9) OLED capacitive multitouch display
- HD radio tuner
- HD video output (720p) via HDMI on optional dock
- IE-based web browser
- Flash drive (capacity unknown)
- Processor unknown
- Release Fall 2009, price unknown
Those are pretty solid specs, but nothing game-changing. With all the rumors floating around about a “portable Xbox” this seems a bit disappointing. The beloved “Zune pad” controls are gone in the interest of directly copying Apple with a touchscreen-only design. The previous Zune controls met with nearly universal praise so I cannot see how this move is beneficial except in appealing directly to those who think that screen control is high-tech. Unless the side buttons do more than just control the volume, this device looks very difficult to navigate semi-blindly, which is something I often do with my Zune 30. The HD radio is a non-issue, because I can’t stand to listen to the radio; the rare times I do, I’m in the car and using poor speakers in a noisy environment, so higher quality won’t help me.
The screen does seem nice, even if the resolution is a bit low. It’s quite likely that new Apple devices will have similar screens, so that benefit will be gone. What that screen is displaying, however, will be the difference maker. In my estimation, this new Zune will need to offer some compelling applications or games to really compete against the iPod Touch and its App Store. The Xbox is supposed to be getting a Zune overhaul, and it has been said that we don’t know everything there is to know about the Zune HD, so some hope remains – but these things really do sound better when they’re hyped and not everything has been elucidated. If there were some way to get compatibility with Xbox Live games and/or existing Windows Mobile programs, a solid library would already be available.
If this device is not using NVIDIA’s Tegra platform, it will instantly lose a lot of its appeal to me. The added power of such a processor opens up many opportunities and would really set the Zune HD apart. At this point, a PMP device will need to be very enticing to earn my money because of the increasing multimedia functions of cell phones. Convergence is key; I would much rather have only one device to carry around than two, and I’ll need convincing that this player will do what no phone can. I just fear that Microsoft will be dropping the ball a bit on this one, but maybe E3 will prove me wrong.
I will say it looks a lot more stylish than my original brown Zune 30.