zune hd redux

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12519_7-10303243-49.html

Could there be a more beautiful piece of “unnecessity“? The Zune HD is so appealing because of its elegant, understated metal-and-glass appearance, polished and animated interface, and its notable features, namely: NVIDIA Tegra processor, HD Radio receiver, OLED display, and 720P HD-over-HDMI output. But I’m still not sure about some things.

I consider myself a reasonable Zune fan… But what does the Zune HD really offer anyone? By this time, nearly everyone has a device with adequate storage capacity that will play their music and videos, be it their cellphone or a dedicated device (even an older Zune, perhaps). The Zune HD does not offer expansive codec support, and at launch it will have limited capabilities, perhaps with just a few games available to augment its web browser. It’s not intended to be a “do-it-all” mobile device, but my question is why not? It has a very powerful processor but is being introduced into a dying market of dedicated PMPs, with very little offered to bridge the gap into converged electronics.

Remember the “3 plays for 3 days” sharing ability of the current Zunes? It is an increasingly irrelevant feature that – at least originally – was touted as a main selling point. I can see a similar situation occurring with the Zune HD’s high-definition output. I cannot imagine many scenarios where I would be away from my laptop (and Xbox 360) but would need streaming video to a television with an HDMI port. As it stands, I can output from my Zune 30 to my TV but have only tried it for the spectacle, not as a practical application.

I have already complained some, lamenting the omission of physical controls and the uncertainty of the Zune’s applications (which may be on the way). But the continued lack of a removable battery, MicroSD slot, speaker, microphone, Bluetooth, and, to a lesser extent, GPS, are all disappointing as well. Incidentally, these are all features that are commonplace on Windows Mobile cellphones, which makes the Zune HD’s existence as an independent piece of hardware (and not merely as a software suite for Microsoft’s ailing mobile OS) somewhat puzzling.

Finally, they’ve got me convinced that I need a Zune HD, but I still don’t know why. I feel there is a danger in “gadget lust,” a risk of losing sight of those things which really matter (see also here). If the utility of the Zune HD can be enjoyed as simply that, and if Microsoft can make available some applications, it may be worth getting. But for now, it’s quite conflicting.

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