Microsoft Confirms Zune HD With Multi-touch

But concerns raised elsewhere...

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