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Microsoft Confirms Zune HD With Multi-touch

Gordon Kelly


Microsoft Confirms Zune HD With Multi-touch

Cats + bags, these days why do companies even bother...?

Firming up what was first spotted two months ago, the Zune HD/ZuneHD got all kinds of official today and draws both great excitement and some tempered weariness.

First off the pictures were spot on, the minimalist metallic look takes the troubled line in a completely fresh direction and we do indeed get a 16:9 OLED capacitive touchscreen display with *big cheers* multi-touch technology. The other major news is the Zune HD becomes the first portable MP3 player to include HD radio which while greatly improving upon the quality of FM broadcasts will cause trouble in the UK where DAB has (rightly or wrongly) been plumped for instead.

Microsoft has confirmed Zune Marketplace will expand outside the US to Europe and Canada so whether a hardware switch or simple removal of the feature will ensue we don't know. So what else is there to get excited about? Like its predecessors, WiFi remains a focal point of the Zune HD and there will be a mobile browser built in based upon - oh yes - Internet Explorer.

Problem areas? The screen is smaller than expected at 3.3in and worse still so is the native resolution at just 480 x 272 pixels - both well below the 3.6 inches and WVGA resolution touted. In fact, the iPhone has a higher resolution at 480 x 320. HD video output is also more complicated than anticipated with support for 720p video output only available via an optional docking station. Why not just go with HDMI? Way to make things complicated Microsoft.

Beyond this there are too many questions: fundamentals such as release date ("early fall" for the US) remain vague, codec support and storage capacity/type were skipped over entirely. Other features like GPS and Bluetooth support seem worryingly absent while official shots show no indication of the mooted three megapixel camera. As for gaming? No idea.

We also have no idea what will be powering the player - nVidia's exciting Tegra chipset had been hotly rumoured but much of this has already gone by the wayside. It definitely won't be making GSM / HSDPA phone calls either.

So the Zune HD is an undoubted step forward for Microsoft but, at this stage, not quite the quantum leap we'd been led to believe. The player's official homepage uses the slogan 'portable perfection' - not quite yet...


Zune HD Official Page


May 27, 2009, 12:53 pm

I'm loving the design, its probably one of the best looking MP3 players out there now, but until my first generation Zune kicks the bucket I ain't buying a new one.


May 27, 2009, 1:12 pm

I would like to think this isn't just my inner fan-boy speaking, but, there's more than a passing resemblance to the original iPhone in the design... No?

Still, Apple-lover or not, I eagerly await the full details! (I think there's a forum somewhere on the internet where I'll be expected to eat my hat with this announcement...)


May 27, 2009, 1:48 pm

While Microsoft score points for at least trying to compete in this sector I really really REALLY dislike the design. For a start it looks like an iPhone with extra edges but the big kicker are those four exposed screws on the back. On a high-end device it just looks... wrong somehow. It's another device using an OLED screen though so maybe, just maybe, we'll see one in the new iPhone...

Ollie Williams

May 27, 2009, 2:08 pm

Well, I for one like the industrial element added by the exposed screws and if they provide the added bonus of user-upgradable storage/ability to swap batteries they by all means lets have them. It's an interesting design tho, modern clean lines and just a little bit retro. Unfortunatey being Microsoft theres a good chance that software/hardware will let it down. Stay tuned i guess.


May 27, 2009, 2:22 pm

What I admire about the UI design is the fact that "marketplace" doesn't quite fit on the screen. Maybe they prototyped the new Zune multi-touch interface on an iPhone and didn't realise they were going to be a few pixels short of 480x320 on the actual machine?


May 27, 2009, 2:29 pm

I can't wait used to have a first gen zune and whilst the looks weren't great the interface and the software was and apple have only just caught up with drm free on itunes. Gotta say thats the one thing I miss now I have a touch along with fm. Still like to give it a spin and the sound quality was very good.

I hope they do a contract 18 months subscription the zune pass @£10 (all you can eat downloads even over wifi whilst keeping 10 Drm free tracks a month) and £100 for the device. The 10 song syou keep mean the pass is really only £5 which appears to be a very good deal.


May 27, 2009, 2:47 pm

480x320 can't really do a 16:9 aspect ratio, and to get the same vertical resolution of 480 you'd need (if i'm correct) 853 pixels across.

as much as i'd like it, that kind of resolution won't happen.

gareth edwards

May 27, 2009, 3:27 pm

Why is it that when M$ release a product most people think they have missed the boat? Don't get me wrong - they make half decent stuff but that in its self is the problem - the other half is crap.

ZunePass! In a world of Spotify, AmazonMP3, iTunes and a host of other services that give you music who really wants a subscription service? This is a turkey no matter how you slice it.

A non 16:9 display - Duh! Go figure.

A non-starter outside the US to begin with! Why, I just do not get this, want to be a global player (like with the xbox) you need to actually sell the damn thing abroad.

The most important thing you have to ask though is who actually will buy this in the kind of numbers that MS need to make it a success worth investing in? The MP3 market (according to a report that Apple had done) states that the market has reached saturation for all intents an purposes. So uptake of an MP3 player, however nice isn't gonna take off like you want it to. To make the sale you have to converge the sale by giving them something else - in the case of the upcoming Nana (allegedly) it's gonna have a camera - smart thinking and a real extra benefit of buying the device.

My bet, this may be the last ZUNE that M$ do unless they have the phone version in the wings and waiting for an Xmas launch.


May 27, 2009, 4:12 pm

HD Radio is just what they call digital radio in the US. It's a different format from DAB but the execution is more or less the same. You may be thinking of Satellite Radio - it's a bigger departure than DAB in terms of channels and sound quality.

Adam Foreman

May 27, 2009, 5:31 pm

What's the point of being able to display and playback HD material when your display is a mere 480 x 272? At least the ARCHOS 5 Series has a screen of 800x480 pixels which at least makes better use of the extra pixels....again not HD by any stretch of the imagination. As a portable Media player, its design is very sophisticated in design and has me intrigued.


May 27, 2009, 6:47 pm

@Adam - the point is for output to a TV or monitor, though HD on a screen below 10in anyway is pretty pointless IMHO.


May 27, 2009, 6:51 pm

Actually I don't really have a problem with the screen resolution. 480 x 272 might sound a bit short next to the iPod Touch, but the new Sony X Series is only 432 x 240. That's a smaller device than the Touch and better for it IMHO. If the thing's primary function is to play music, I'd rather have something that fits in my pocket than something that under-utilises its huge screen.

I'm sure both the Zune and X-Series will be quite capable of playing the odd movie clip or TV show on the tube. It's not as if you'd want to sit down and watch a film on any of these devices.


May 27, 2009, 7:50 pm

@ gareth - ten tracks on amazon, for example, cost about £6 @ 60p each. Then you are just paying £4 for the subscription that has no limits whatsoever as in you can download the entire library (pretty much the same as itunes except for really obscure stuff) for free as in you get 10 tracks to keep plus say 1000 tracks (the only limit is how much YOU can download) on the subscrition service THAT is a very good deal unless you illegally download your music. You obviously didn't read the article 480x272 is far more widescreen that the ipod touch and the devices have gained over 10% market share in the US and are second only to apple. The market has nowhere near reached saturation since people replace their devices every year or two or three so there is still much demand hence increased MP3 player sales last year.

This is just outright fanboy "in the case of the upcoming Nana {I think you mean nano} (allegedly) it's gonna have a camera {is it hell} - smart thinking {WTF} and a real extra benefit of buying the device {WTF} "

oh and guys read the article as Gordon said HD output is through a dock

Adam Foreman

May 27, 2009, 8:18 pm

@Gordon, I understand the dock would be its source of output, but again who is going to use a media player such as this to playback HD material to a monitor or HD TV? Most HD files are in MKV format in its highest quality file format and are usually over 1Gb in size to account for the resolution and quality. Knowing its an MS product MKV probably wont be supported and h264/MP4 will be used, reducing the overall quality in favour of file size. At this point, using the media player as it is, its HD tag is very limited and misleading to the consumer.


May 27, 2009, 8:55 pm

@Adam - I agree it's misleading, but then again most marketing is. That's where we come in to sort through it all ;)

gareth edwards

May 28, 2009, 2:11 pm

@Andrew Violet

with regards to the Zune-Pass, it ain't working because if it was there would be MORE people with ZUNES simple numbers buddy. People don't rate it so they don't buy it no matter how much you tell them it's ace. It's not just about price.

Widescreen - obviously I am wrong.

10% market share - wow. Second only to apple, well done them. Redmond with their billions in the bank, their ubiquitous OS in nearly every house on the planet, with 2 current OS's in the market-place and a third on the way (not forgetting their mobile flavors) can manage (very distant) second place to a company only 10 years ago were being written off completely, with a platform that was the preserve of the creative industries and little else. Way to go Redmond - awesome, I mean really, really awesome. In the mean time they made up the 'plays for sure' crappolla, got all 3rd parties on board then took them out into the woods and shot them all in the back of the head. Nice.

Saturation point


Cause they just make this up to while away their hours y'know.

And people 'replace their devices every year or two or three?' Make your mind up. Example - saturation point has hit compact digital cameras and now they are integrating new tech to stimulate the market - you can't just sell a 'digital camera' anymore (except for on price alone), for a convincing sale and a wow factor to get the sale it has to have wi-fi, location services, facebook interoperability, 3D (next?) HD-video etc etc. See what I mean?

Outright Fanboyism - no, just straight thinking, I think maybe you you ought to consider that people who like Apple products also like other stuff and just because they like Apple stuff doesn't mean they blindly follow them.

The biggest problem Redmond has however is that Apple's market is huge but most importantly each apple user when they upgrade to a new unit has a choice to make. If I owned an apple iPod what do you think I would buy next, another iPod or wait - I know, I'll rush out and buy a ZUNE...

nah don't think so.

Oh - and if you don't think a camera built into an Mp3 player is a useful addition "WTF" yer'self.

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