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Handhelds Microsoft Technology

Zune HD Unveiled, Set For Fall Release 410

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-sufficiently-small-values-of-h dept.
Several readers have written to mention that Microsoft has confirmed and unveiled the Zune HD. It has a "3.3-inch, 480 x 272 OLED capacitive touchscreen display, built-in HD Radio receiver, HD output," and it makes use of multi-touch input. More details will be forthcoming at E3, including how the device interacts with Xbox Live. Reader johnjaydk notes a PCWorld article that asks whether the Zune HD will be capable of competing with the iPod Touch. Quoting: "... the real competition between the Zune HD and the iPod Touch will come down to software. The new Zune will be based on a custom version of Windows CE, while the iPod Touch runs on the already popular iPhone platform, for which thousands of applications are available."
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Zune HD Unveiled, Set For Fall Release

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  • Title (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Custard (587661) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:14PM (#28111889) Homepage Journal

    I first read that title as "Zune HD Unveiled, Set For Fail Release"

    • by gcnaddict (841664)
      The device is sturdy (judging from past Zunes), the screen (while not HD by any means) will still be a decent screen to work with, and the hardware will be solid enough to output 1280x720.

      It's a winner in my book, even though I still wish the screen itself was 720p.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rzekson (990139)
        From this never-ending iphon/ipod/zune buzz, one could get the impression that the world has only two cutting edge devices, ipod/iphone and zune. it just so happens that the fantastic features they promise to come have all been around for some time now. I just find it genuinely hard to understand why the free software community drools over the iphones, and fails to notice the availability of platforms that are superior and basically made for developers (not to mention there are a number of better devices ou
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mdwh2 (535323)

          I couldn't agree more.

          There's a wide range of devices out there, and given that one of the reasons to come to Slashdot is supposedly to learn about new tech news, it's frustrating that the coverage when it comes to mobile devices is so poor: covering every trivial news release or even rumour about the Iwhatever, and ignoring any news from other major companies (including ones that are far bigger players in the phone market).

          I also love how TFS brags about having more apps for the Iphone than on Windows CE.

    • Re:Title (Score:4, Funny)

      by Etrias (1121031) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:53PM (#28112471)
      Raise the failure flag!
    • Fall, release, drop, give-up, fail... all much the same really.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)

      I first read that title as "Zune HD Unveiled, Set For Fail Release"

      Maybe that's the date they will all fail simultaneously [google.com]? But this time, it'll be in high-definition!

    • But now it will fail in advanced 480 x 272 resolution!

  • by CNETNate (1469133) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:18PM (#28111937)
    Zunes are also finally coming to Europe as well, which marks the first time Microsoft has announced the US exclusivity on the Zune is being dropped. Understandably, the US press has perhaps overlooked this fact, but if you live here in Europe, it's possibly bigger news than the Zune HD being announced.
    • by Reapman (740286) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:25PM (#28112073)

      You can actually get the Zune up here in Canada, and contrary to popular belief we're not the 51st state ;)

      • by CNETNate (1469133)
        Can you use the Zune Marketplace for that as well? Part of the European rollout will be integration with Xbox Live and the Zune Marketplace.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:27PM (#28112113)

        ...contrary to popular belief we're not the 51st state ;)

        When did this happen??? They seceded?

        • by rvw (755107)

          ...contrary to popular belief we're not the 51st state ;)

          When did this happen??? They seceded?

          No, they were sold to Europe! It's coming to Europe you know! The Zune is just a cover operation.

    • by Andy_R (114137) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:30PM (#28113029) Homepage Journal

      Will they replace the HD Radio with DAB radio for Britain and the other parts of Europe that use DAB?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't know the technicals regarding DAB, but I do know that the current generation of HD receiver/decoders get really hot and pull a lot of current. Even if Microsoft has significantly improved the technology it's probably still going to be awfully hard on a little battery. I don't believe a 20x improvement in efficiency is likely in any case.
        I suspect they've made compromises to reduce power usage (and antenna size), which when paired with a technology that is problematic to begin with is probably going

  • OLED screen? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alcimedes (398213) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:19PM (#28111957)

    Will this be the first mass produced consumer product to use an OLED screen? I know I've been reading about them for some time, but other than one digital camera (i think) I don't know that I've heard of any products that will actually contain one. It will be interesting to see how it looks relative to other small media players.

    If nothing else it's great that they're raising the bar.

    • Re:OLED screen? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:22PM (#28112011)

      No, OLED screens have been on devices for a while. Check out Cowon's sleak S9.

      • Re:OLED screen? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by njen (859685) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:35PM (#28112237)
        I have an S9, and I am very impressed with it. The AMOLED screen is simply amazing, this coming from a CG graphics industry vet. Colour reproduction is very important to me, and it does not disappoint. Unless the Zune is priced better than the S9, or the Samsung equivalent (was it called the P3?), then it's not going to do that well, especially knowing that by that time, Cowon and Samsung (not to mention everyone else) will have updated models of their products (possibly even second generation level) by the time Microsoft get's in with this. Pass.
    • Small ones [amazon.com] are all over the place. Most of the desktop sized digital photo frames I saw last I was in Japan are OLED.
  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:19PM (#28111963)

    With specs like that, I'm curious as to what their target demographic is? Apple already tied up the young, hip and ignorant. iRiver owns the cheap and techy. All that's left is the old and confused.

    The Zune is like the Go-Bots of digital media players. It's what your grandmother will buy you for your birthday, knowing you like that "music thing"

    • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:43PM (#28112331)

      I'd have to say that their target demographic is probably everyone who bought an Xbox 360. The one piece of MS's gaming strategy that's been noticably lacking is the handheld. Now, it appears they're getting serious about it. I had high hopes for Zune integration when the 360 came out, and it just never happened. Then, XNA came out and it looked like things were going to happen in that space again, and then nothing. Maybe the old axiom about MS getting it right on the third shot is going to hold true, yet again?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by feepness (543479)

        Maybe the old axiom about MS getting it right on the third shot is going to hold true, yet again?

        What has Microsoft ever gotten right?

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      Don't recycle your gobots onto your grand kids.
    • by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:43PM (#28114013) Homepage
      The Zune hardware is actually pretty solid, and for a while they were really, really cheap. At one point the 30gb version was getting dumped on various internet sites for $80-$99. That's a terrific value, even now. So good, in fact, that I bought one myself. The hardware is solid; I've dropped mine more than once and it still keeps going. The battery life is good, and the interface, while not perfect, isn't bad.

      The atrocious part about the Zune is the windows software. It was an abomination 2 years ago, and is still terrible. For a long period of time it wasn't available on Vista, Windows 64, or any version of Windows Media Center. Various hacks to the installer program proved it could be done- the limitation was an entirely unnecessary OS-check. The software is still a pig, but the hardware is good, and was cheap.
    • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:44PM (#28114023) Homepage

      Dude, the Go-Bots were awesome!

      If anyone moderates this funny I shall be offended :-p

  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:20PM (#28111975) Journal
    The hardware is pretty good looking(though the screen resolution is a bit of a WTF? in this day and age). My primary concern would be browser related. Mobile IE is a worthless unforgivable pustule on the ass of mankind. Since it isn't on x86, it doesn't even have the "compatible with every last weirdo activeX control and embedded horror" angle going for it. Unless MS has made extraordinary enhancements, they might as well not bother.

    Hopefully it will be compatible with Opera or other third party browsers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CompMD (522020)

      480x272 (WQVGA) is a very common resolution. Look at the widescreen Garmin nuvis.

  • HD, yeah.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by omgarthas (1372603) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:22PM (#28112005)
    From TFA: "Supported 720p HD video files play on the device, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272 - not HD resolution. Zune HD and AV Dock, and an HDTV (all sold separately) are required to view video at HD resolution" Seems like every single product these times has to have "HD" at the end, just like "2000", "Professional", etc, etc..., even if its missinforming...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gcnaddict (841664)
      It can output 720p to an HDTV.
    • by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:38PM (#28112275) Homepage
      Seems like every single product these times has to have "HD" at the end

      Yay! It can finally allow me to read all those 1.4MB floppies I have in a box in a cupboard somewhere...
      • Don't get ahead of yourself, now. Nowhere does it say it handles double-sided media. Just high-density.

        • by TeknoHog (164938)
          I always thought it said "CH" rather than "HD" on those floppies, and I associated it with the data persistence of a Swiss bank. Or perhaps with Swiss cheese...
    • by samkass (174571)
      My personal suspicion is that Apple planned the next iPod Touch to be called the Touch HD, Microsoft got wind of it, and decided to pre-announce to "reserve" the name in the public's mind. The iPod has already done video out at 480p and 576p via (optional) component cables for awhile, so my guess was that they'd bump that up to 720p and call it the Touch HD with June's hardware refresh. The catch is, of course, the bitrate. I haven't seen what the Zune HD's "High Definition" bitrate actually is. For exa
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      In this particular case, HD means "highly distorted".

  • by Onyma (1018104) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:22PM (#28112023)
    "The new Zune will be based on a custom version of Windows CE, while the iPod Touch runs on the already popular iPhone platform, for which thousands of applications are available."

    This makes it sound like CE is just some new kid on the block. I mean I don't deny the popularity of the iPhone platform and the benefit of their app store, but common, CE is no flash in the pan for applications either. Not to mention Visual Studio makes it a BREEZE to develop for.
    • by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:47PM (#28112403)

      I believe the point is that while it is called "WinCE" any software labeled as "WinCE compatible" won't be compatible with this device, much like "PlaysForSure" on music guaranteed that it wouldn't.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bert64 (520050)

        It's also labelled "Windows", just like "Windows Mobile", trying to play on people's familiarity with the desktop version, but it isn't compatible with any of the software available for the desktop version thus being extremely misleading.

    • CE has thousand of apps that act as if you're on a desktop--hence not-intuitive from the desktop UI.

      iPod has thousand of apps that are useless, hence useless.

      You pay either way so it's a win-win for Apple and MS.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:23PM (#28112027) Journal

    Which means that anyone who can program for Win 2k/xp/vista/7 can program for the Zune. I've done WinMobile programming and it's easy in C#. Many apps can be easily ported from desktop to Mobile and back, with the main issue being the screen size.

    The tuner (I assume it does regular FM if it does HD) is a big win here.

    I wonder how hard it is to transcode video for it? If it's as easy as for iPhone (using Handbrake, for example)...

    • Many apps can be easily ported from desktop to Mobile and back, with the main issue being the screen size.

      That's the whole reason Windows Mobile has such problems, because in development you are basically targeting a desktop but the user doesn't HAVE a desktop, they have a mobile device with constrained screen and constrained input. It makes the applications developed fundamentally more frustrating than they are on OS's built around a mobile platform - like the Android, iPhone OS or even WebOS from Palm.

      No

      • So the whole reason that Windows Mobile has problems is because application developers are porting their desktop applications?

        • So the whole reason that Windows Mobile has problems is because application developers are porting their desktop applications?

          Exactly right. They suck to use on mobile platforms and so fewer people buy and use them, except for a handful of productivity stuff like Goodmail. But you just don't see the kind of casual exploration of apps on the scale iPhone users engage in.

          Some people do tailor the experience more to a mobile user but there's only so much you can do with the frameworks that are there... and t

      • by dhavleak (912889) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @09:04PM (#28117873)

        I disagree -- I think there's a bunch of reasons WM has issues, and this is pretty low in the pecking order.

        But specifically - when it comes to app design, it isn't so much a question of porting directly from the desktop -- it's a lack of mobile UI paradigms in the framework that stunts WM.

        The easiest example is touch scrolling on the iphone vs. scroll bars on windows mobile. Scroll bars are a desktop paradigm. Touch scrolling is a mobile device paradigm. No mobile app should ever require the user to home in on a 2mm thick scroll bar using a 1-inch thick thumb. Not to mention the already limited screen real-estate that's getting wasted in displaying the scroll bar.

        That's something MS needs to fix in their app development framework. Everyone writing / proting an app for WM shouldn't have to rewrite the code for that. Even if developers take the effort to do that, you get varying implementations resulting in an incoherent user experience (which is exactly what you have on WM).

        Also consider radio buttons - why click on a tiny little circle instead of just using the entire text of the selection as the button itself, and use 3D effects to show which option is selected? An common zoom mechanism would be useful too. The start menu is a terrible idea on a screen as small as a QVGA -- a lot of people run out of space in the programs launcher on their desktops!!

        The one thing I'll give WM a lot of credit for (which most people hate about it) -- the home/today screen. It actually gives me useful information unlike an iphone. I don't get any information from seeing a screen full of icons. They're useful, and it's nice to have everything so accessable, but keeping the icons one click away wouldn't have been too much overhead. The thing I miss on an iphone is being able to see my emails (broken down by account type - gmail/outlook/hotmail/etc.), my upcoming meetings, and being able to just type a contact name without needing to go to any screen. Those are the main functions of a 'communications' device that need to be available to me at all times, and WM absolutely nailed that aspect.

  • HD radio is awesome! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:25PM (#28112061) Homepage

    I bought an HD radio just to check out the technology. The cheapest one I could find was $80--quite a bit for a radio. But the quality is spectacular (HD AM sounds better than the best non-HD FM reception), and you get more stations and metadata.

    I am surprised that his hasn't caught on more yet. I believe it is because the chips needed for HD radios are still expensive. I sure hope the Zune drives down implementation costs and helps bring HD radio to the masses. Listening to NPR as if I'm right in the station is a great experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      its hard to find hd radios with spdif out (the industry doesn't like that and they try to make it hard).

      that, and the fact that the audio is too compressed to be called 'hi fi'.

      I'll pass.

      • You'll pass on HD radio in favor of what? Non-HD radio? So you prefer hiss-and-pop mono AM radio? You prefer the white noise in the background of FM radio? Really?

        If your concern is volume range compression, you should know that your analog radio stations are probably playing their music from similarly-compressed CDs. Are you sure HD is responsible for whatever compression you dislike so?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I pass on the whole CONCEPT of a live real-time broadcast.

          yawn.

          only thing that really makes sense is a non-broadcast (multicast, at best; but preferably unicast on-demand) form of music i/o.

          radio is an old and outdated transmission mode. we need to drop the antique thinking and build up on wireless IP. radio for data is not the right way to go. this is the media trying to keep life support on a has-been format (broadcast; or transmit once and 'everyone' has to listen at that time.)

          that and the fact that

          • by davek (18465) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:30PM (#28115549) Homepage Journal

            I pass on the whole CONCEPT of a live real-time broadcast.

            It amazes me how many people take this view, when there is no current data to back it up, and certainly no historical data. The concept of live radio is not at all like newspapers -- where the legacy form provides no advantage over the Internet-based form. Live radio is a fundamental form of communication, and it will live on well after the FM/AM bands have been removed.

            I go through phases of listening to various podcasts and other on-demand media, but eventually the routine just gets boring: having to choose each episode, start it from the beginning, and HOPE that something interesting happens. I'd rather flip through the channels and "see what's on." Not to mention the whole communal aspect of listening to something when you /know/ thousands of others are listening at the same time.

            Live broadcast mediums will always have a place. Any attempt to discard them is foolish.

            -David Dombrowsky
            Proud Broadcaster of a LIVE [6thstreetradio.org] internet radio station

    • by wowbagger (69688) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:15PM (#28112805) Homepage Journal

      Part of the reason is that Ibiquity, the folks behind the HD radio standard, managed to get the FCC to approve a MANDATORY encryption key as a part of the standard. In other words, ALL HD radio traffic is encrypted with a key that you have to license from Ibiquity - full stop.

      No matter if you can make your own decoder chip - you SHALL license the key from Ibiquity or you won't be able to decode ANY traffic.

      And as a result, if you want to do something and Ibiquity doesn't want you to - you don't do it.

      And Ibiquity doesn't want your spiffy new radio outputting any form of digital stream - no USB, no Firewire, no SPIDF, no Uncle Mikey.

      So when Griffin wanted to have the RadioSharkHD stream the HD over USB to your computer - BZZZZT! Wrong answer.

  • Look at how the Xbox 360 unceremoniously unseated Playstation as the console of choice.

    MS is playing for keeps -- if they keep at it, they will do well. I actually think their Zune Pass is one of the best things out there, even though I don't have a Zune. If they got a few 3rd parties to do a car integration kit (ala Dice) I'd be on board and buy one.

    • by WankersRevenge (452399) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:47PM (#28112395)
      meh ... bad analogy. I would say Sony really earns the props for the 360 coming in second place. The fact that MS is not in third place considering the fact it was cause of the largest consumer electronics fuckup in US history showed just how bad Sony screwed the pooch. Especially coming off the runaway success of the playstation 2. If Sony wasn't so incompetent, i would imagine that Microsoft would be probably be in a distant third right now with plans on escaping the market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AnalPerfume (1356177)
      Damn that was funny, cheers. If I had mod points I'd use them.

      While the XBOX and the XBOX 360 are decent, the Sony equivalents are much the same. The Wii spanked BOTH those in terms of sales and popularity. Is the Wii making or losing money for Nintendo? What about the XBOX 360 part of Microsoft, how is that affecting the bottom line? We still have potential lawsuits over faulty hardware to take into account.

      Microsoft do have a habit of not seeing a potential money making sector as it grows, until it's big
  • It's patently obvious that the Zune is the better and most innovative product ever to come out of Redmond, despite Apple launching the iPod in 2001, a full five years before the Zune. And Apple stealing the 'Zune Marketplace' and rebranding it as the iTunes Store .. :)

    Seriously: if they don't tie the Zune to the Windows desktop, and make using the other players a jolting experience, then the 'innovation' magic isn't going to work this time. The constant mud slinging at Apple being a reminder as to who th
  • Looks Like a Duck (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:32PM (#28112201)
    If it looks like an iPod Touch and acts like an iPod Touch but comes from Microsoft, it ain't an iPod Touch.

    It must suck to be an engineer at Microsoft. Ignoring the phat paycheck, it must really suck to work for a company that has largely given up on any semblance of innovation and is simply following the lead of other companies. I would imagine that many of their best and brightest are begging to explore some very cool ideas but are being held back by Microsoft's corporate culture... I feel for them...

    Actually, they get paid magnitudes more than I do so I don't feel too bad for them...
  • by goffster (1104287) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:33PM (#28112211)

    I have Mac at home. I want to buy some music.
    I do *not* go to Amazon.com or Walmart to buy my music more cheaply. I buy from ITunes because the whole F'ing process is streamlined. I don't have to think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      I do *not* go to Amazon.com or Walmart to buy my music more cheaply. I download bittorents because the whole F'ing process is streamlined. I don't have to think. Plus, I'm a cheap-ass bastard!
    • I don't have to think.

      That's exactly what Apple is counting on. Most people don't consider thinking to be a burden. It's an amusing argument anyway, that choice of where to buy your music and the fact that music you buy from a variety of retailers works, is a bad thing. If you're against consumer choice I guess that explains why you prefer Apple products though.

  • Open up MTPZ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DevVar8++ (744671) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:44PM (#28112355)
    I wish I could get my Zune to work in Ubuntu. Microsoft, please open up MTPZ!
  • 480x272 is 'HD Output'? Surely they are joking. Or maybe they've somehow made it so your speakers/headphones work better magically, and they mean HD audio output.

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:48PM (#28112417) Homepage

    ... as long as it's brown.

    • OT: Monkeys (Score:3, Funny)

      by ozbird (127571)

      Life is a monkey, flinging feces and candy. The trick is figuring out when to dodge and when to catch.

      Unless monkeys have learnt to wash their hands, keep dodging.

  • by EMB Numbers (934125) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:03PM (#28112615)

    Smaller screen than an iPod Touch, Windows CE, Microsoft App Store - Lame.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:10PM (#28112733) Journal

    They are NOT the cool company. Nobody wants the MS logo (what is it actually?) on their fashion accesory MP3 player. For me to pay the premium that both MS and Apple demand, there got to be something in it that makes the premium worth while. Else I can just buy a FAR more capable music player from say iRiver, that can actually play more then just MP3/WMV/AAC.

    Furthermore, Apple has already won the war, the retake lost ground, MS would have to do something innovative. They haven't. HD video output can only be done via a docking station. They never heard of mini-hdmi (or whatever the exact name is)?

    HD Radio is a nice gimmick, but if want a portable radio, why would I need to buy a 300+ dollar device? There are cheaper options. Is the MP3/FLAC/ETC part of it also better quality? Got my doubts. For that matter, I am actually willing to bet that the HD radio is raped by the internal circuits till it sounds no better. The Apple devices are the same, terrible audio quality especially if you consider the high price. Silly me for expecting a device that costs 3x as much to sound 3x better :P

    It uses a customer version of CE. Why? I can't think of any other reason then to limit cross spread of software. That it will have all kinds of build in limits that make building for it hard and impossible to share music. Exactly like MS has done countless times before including the previous Zunes.

    MS just doesn't get it, nobody will buy their device simply for the logo and it ain't going to win over anyone that just wants a good portable music player.

  • by syntap (242090) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:14PM (#28112793)

    Mod me down for defending Microsoft, but the note

    "The new Zune will be based on a custom version of Windows CE, while the iPod Touch runs on the already popular iPhone platform, for which thousands of applications are available."

    fails to acknowledge that Windows CE has been around a bit longer than the iPhone OS and has tons of applications available. Just sayin'.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:21PM (#28112895) Homepage Journal

    I had this nightmare, in which we experienced a severe shortage of irrelevant proprietary boxes designed for trivial purposes. THANK MICROSOFT!!!

  • Apps (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:46PM (#28113265)
    Does the custom version of Windows CE allow users to run the apps of their choice? If so, this seems OBVIOUSLY better than any of Apple's products. The 'thousands' of programs in the Apple App Store will be surpassed in six months, if the new Zune is not locked down like an Apple product.

    The Zune always had really good hardware. It had some silly restrictions (like on WiFi), and terrible marketing. Compare that to the iPod/iPhone, which is good hardware, silly restrictions, and great marketing...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by stewbacca (1033764)

      The 'thousands' of programs in the Apple App Store will be surpassed in six months, if the new Zune is not locked down like an Apple product.

      Less space than a nomad. Lame.

  • by Povno (1460131) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:59PM (#28113451)
    I have a Zune120. Despite the given fact that it is proprietary as hell, it is a fairly stable device. The firmware is extremely intuitive and runs really smoothly. The audio quality is clear. And I really enjoy the social that is built around it. My only issue is with it being so damn proprietary that I have to either dual boot XP or have it inside my Ubuntu Studio on a VM to even use it. It is the only reason I still even use windows.

    I think part of the reason why the Zune fails is that it's one of those devices that a lot of people don't give a chance to. Those of us that use them, really enjoy them. I also happen to think iPods are nice as well and I have really considered Archos devices (though I had enough trouble affording my 120); but the truth is I like my Zune too much. And for players with large storage capabilities the options are limited. If we could only get it working in Linux [ubuntu.com]
  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:03PM (#28114155)

    I've never understood this business strategy. I don't see any intrinsic reason why Microsoft should seek to enter every possible technology market and leverage its enormous financial power and resources to do so.

    They know Zune is a failed business venture. As a product, the Zune is unable to compete with the iPod on any meaningful level. And Microsoft management knows this. Yet they persist, not out of some altruistic desire to encourage competition, but because the executives (read: Ballmer) have too much hubris to concede that Apple has done something remarkable. They have succeeded in revolutionizing the portable media device. And with the iPhone, Apple has created nothing less than an integrated portable computing/communications/multimedia solution that is as stylish as it is easy to use. Is it perfect? Hardly. Was it the first to use each of its component technologies? No. But it is indisputable that it broke new ground by combining all these features into a single, easy-to-use device. And the only ones who still refuse to admit this are those who are aligned with Ballmer's distorted view of reality.

    I have a healthy appreciation for the competition--Google (Android), RIM (Blackberry), Palm (Pre), Nokia (N9x), and yes, even Microsoft (Zune/Windows Mobile). It's important that these guys are around to keep Apple on its toes. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that these are the good guys for fostering that competition. If they were truly good, they would have recognized the importance of innovating beyond what they see in Apple's offerings, rather than simply trying to make a comparable product. Where was their vision before Apple dominated the field? No, they were too busy being complacent. We saw tiny, incremental changes in the mobile device market for years until the iPhone blew everyone away. The same was true of the pre-iPod MP3 market. Apple lit a fire under their collective asses and now hardware manufacturers are going nuts trying to make the next "iPod/iPhone/iWhatever" killer.

    The Zune will never be successful as long as it is deprived of a true vision. It isn't enough to mimic another device or its success. That's what Microsoft does not understand. They never have understood what makes a product work. The ubiquity of their bread-and-butter Windows has brought them enormous financial success and market share, but with that it has brought laziness and sloppy management. They can afford to push out half-assed products. Windows will still be there to keep the money coming in. They don't have to be hungry, visionary, or risk-taking, like Apple has had to be for decades. They've made some real blunders (G4 cube, 20th Anniversary Mac, the Lisa, Mac OS licensing, Centris/Quadra/Performa bloated product line,... I could go on but I think you get the point). But they have had enormous successes as well. Microsoft could make Zune amazing. Any company could, given that much money and talent. But that's not what they really want. They don't want to make something better than an iPhone or an iPod. They want to make something just good enough superficially, with as little attention to detail as possible, just so they can say they have some market penetration.

    Microsoft has not wanted to make a better 'something' for DECADES. When a company stops caring about providing the best possible user experience, I stop caring about that company's products.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BabyDuckHat (1503839)
      The underlying reason behind anything Microsoft does is: protect the Windows and Office monopoly. They are so terrified of losing that, they have to enter every single technology market, lest something come along and unseat them. However, it is this protectionism that also limits them. They can't truly innovate without potentially damaging their own cash cows. Look at every move they make in that context and all becomes clear.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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