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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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  • 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.
  • 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 HerculesMO (693085) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:26PM (#28112089)

    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 TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:27PM (#28112099)

    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.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:32PM (#28112183)

    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.

    Not to mention it can lead to apps that really chow down battery.

  • 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.

  • 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!
  • 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.

  • 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 geminidomino (614729) * on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:17PM (#28112845) Journal

    And the pragmatic people going for MIN(price/GB)... All the wizz-bang wankery is pointless to me since I have to use it with linux, but it won out on the price, and it plays music.

  • by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:18PM (#28112851)
    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 enough to catch their attention and by that time there are other entrenched players to unseat. Usually at that point Microsoft try to do their own thing, vendor locked and half baked, which tends to fail. The next point is to buy someone already successful in that sector, buying the market share they can't get on merit. If they can't buy market share it's the old smear /legal threats campaign to destroy the competition. The only area they did actually offer a good product comparable with the competition was the XBOX & it's successor the XBOX 360.

    As the credit crunch continues and people still have to watch their spending Microsoft will continue to have a hard time. They relied on the usual hype with Windows to have Vista being sung from the rooftops as the savior to their IT woes, and it bombed. Perhaps some of the criticism was unjustified but plenty was very much on the mark, and the people rebelled. When you have a multi-billion-doller sure thing you can afford to count on the money rolling in, so when it doesn't you find you've spent a LOT in other areas that you're in even more shit. So you send out the PR drones / proxies / astorturfers to try and brainwash the people and eventually have to give up, give the pig a make over and a new name....and charge more for it to make up the losses.

    The Zune is just another example of a boat they missed and have been desperately running alongside it trying to catch up, all the while being ignored by almost everyone except the die hard fanboys. How many projects to Microsoft keep pumping money into without making it back before they get canceled. Sure each part of Microsoft plays into the whole, some are losing money, some are making it while their two cash cows Windows and Office keep many afloat. The Windows cash cow went on a severe diet over the last couple of years, and shows no real signs of putting on the weight it's been accustomed to.

    Microsoft's PR may give you the idea that they're playing for keeps but in a market like personal mp3/4 players the iPod is king. PR people ALWAYS talk up their products, it's their jobs. There are plenty of great mp3/4 players but the iPod is still king (as much as I wouldn't be seen dead with one personally). Personal gadgets are often used as street cred, where people use them as trophies to be accepted into a crowd. Microsoft will NEVER be trendy, unless you're attending a corporate Christmas office party where the average age of the party attendees is in their 50's and the common thread is "mid life crisis".

    They tried with the Zune before and failed. Even if they have learned some lessons and redesigned the Zune into something reasonably cool, the name Zune has as much cool cred as Windows ME. Microsoft are often keen to rebrand a failed project, apply a new skin and launch it as a new product hoping it will work the second time. It's yet to work for them, this time they didn't waste the money on rebranding, which could be a sign of a budget cut.

    Every other week Microsoft are laying people off, or cutting back on budgets for some projects or plans. The Zune will be a drain for Microsoft to pour some money down, while trying in vain to capture some market share and income from an entrenched leader. This time next year the Zune will be one of the growing list of failures that finally got the axe from the accounts department at Microsoft trying to cut away the dead weight.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:31PM (#28113041) Homepage

    Microsoft is late to the party. When the iPod first started gaining traction, Microsoft should have answered it not with a "I have one too!" response, but with a ten-up (as opposed to a one-up) on them.

    Microsoft has an abundance of machines available from which they could have built their Windows CE "pocket entertainment system" long ago. The hardware technology was available long ago. Why they didn't do long ago what they are doing today is a mystery but I suspect it may have something to do with the same mentality behind the movie industry -- truly original works are deemed too risky so let other people take the risks and then we'll just make copies of whatever is successful. (How many "super hero" movies have there been in the past 6-7 years? It's ridiculous!) In any case, my point is that Microsoft could have done this long ago and probably SHOULD have done this long ago. "Finally getting it's act together?" Hardly. More like "Finally putting their tools to use."

  • by flitty (981864) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:33PM (#28113071)
    I bought a Refub 30 gig Zune for cheap a few years ago, and appreciated the fact that the firmware was updated with the 80 gig zune release. The built in radio was also a bonus to use occasionally. I got an 80 gig Ipod classic for christmas last year, and had multiple problems with it (freezing, random shutdowns, etc) so I took it back and got a Zune 80, which I haven't had any problems with (I didn't turn it on on "shutdown day", so i was unaffected).

    The screen resolution has always been fine, which I think is the same as the new ZuneHD (I mean, we are talking about a 3" screen here, pixel count arguements don't truely matter once your screen is under 5"). The OLED screen actually is probably going to be a better upgrade for quality (and battery IIRC), rather than keeping it a standard LED screen and upgrading to a true HD pixel count. To keep the price comparable to what last years model is, you probably can't upgrade to a true HD screen and OLED at the same time.

    The HD Radio and OLED touchscreen interface seem to be the biggest selling points to me. The rest are bulletpoint features that I probably wouldn't use anyway.

    Now, if we can just get a HDD capacity...
  • by flitty (981864) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:46PM (#28113259)
    Yeah, because Apple is known for its support of it's obsolete models of the iPod. I'd love to know of a single feature "turned on" by a firmware update for an ipod.... anyone?
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:56PM (#28113417)

    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 they try to stiffle digital-outs means this is a FAIL of a format.

    its not about 'pick the kind of radio you want'. one of my choices is, well, NONE OF THE ABOVE. non-IP radio is dead (other than emergency use in special cases).

  • 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]
  • Perfection? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ephraimX (556000) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:06PM (#28113519)
    Anyone else flabbergasted by the cropped "e" on the Marketplace menu item? This is their official promo imagery (captioned with the word "Perfection," no less) on all their press pages! Really? They couldn't have sized that to fit?
  • by Bert64 (520050) <[moc.eeznerif.todhsals] [ta] [treb]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:09PM (#28113571) Homepage

    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.

  • by rzekson (990139) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#28113595)
    Care to explain how it is "off-topic" to point to alternative hardware with better features in a discussion that is all about new hardware with "new" features? The way I see it, a classic example of abusing mod points to censor what you don't like.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#28113597)

    Bigger, heavier, no multi-touch, junk web browser, no phone (you might not weant one but the rest of the world does), GPS (see phone comment), no App Store (see phone comment), lousy UI for a touch device, no camera, lousy tech support, no SMS, no iTunes, no decent MP3 player.

  • Mod Parent Up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wilsoniya (902930) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:12PM (#28113621)
    I'm about to go on an OT rant here, but the parent is absolutely right. The FCC must be either inept or completely corrupt to accept a proprietary technology as a standard, especially when such outrageous exclusivity rules are applied to it's use. In these cases an open standard will create a vibrant market around the technology, expedite it's adoption, and maximize its public utility. For these reasons I say (sadly), fuck you, HD Radio.
  • 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.
  • I'm sorry... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Schnoogs (1087081) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:51PM (#28114077)

    but it's hard to get excited over this. I had a first gen Zune and I liked it more than any of the iPods available at that time. It had a larger screen, an FM radio and supported codecs that the iPod didn't. Two years later though I have an iPhone and I'm seriously asking myself what possible advantage does this have that would make me want to carry TWO devices around. Then when you tack on the app store and the many applications I use on a daily basis and the Zune seems hopeless to compete. Unless MS can offer the same level of application support and the ability to play XBox Live Arcade games I think the platform needs to be taken out back and shot.

  • by BabyDuckHat (1503839) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:32PM (#28114491)
    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.
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:22PM (#28115397) Journal

    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. I don't know if it's true, and it's less likely to be true when the lack of Java on the Iphone is taken into account. But the point being, surely Apple fans are always telling us that having fewer applications isn't a problem? Or do they now concede that Windows is better than MacOS due to the greater application support? Which is it, I wonder?

  • 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 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.

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