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Handhelds Microsoft Technology

Zune HD Unveiled, Set For Fall Release 410

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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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: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.

  • 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)...

  • by gcnaddict ( 841664 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:24PM (#28112051)
    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.
  • 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:HD, yeah.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by gcnaddict ( 841664 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:25PM (#28112067)
    It can output 720p to an HDTV.
  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:43PM (#28112327)

    You can develop iPhone/iTouch software and deploy it without any involvement by Apple. Just connect the computer with the application to your device. What you cannot do without using iTunes or your own (probably corporate) server is widely distribute your applications to others around the world.

    I'm always amazed how ignorant non-Apple users are about Apple's products and how much disinformation they spew. If you really want to know what you can or cannot do with an Apple device or software, you should ask the people who know - experienced Apple users.

  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:03PM (#28112621)
    Can you develop Zune software without Windows?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:13PM (#28112777)

    My dad had an HD radio in his car. It's long since been stolen, but when I had a chance to check it out, I noticed that one FM station here in Las Vegas, NV had an HD radio feed that was noticeably WORSE quality than their plain analog signal. I mean... it sounded like everything was in a tin can. Clearly sound quality is dependent on how well the station has setup their equipment.

    Other stations sounded decent enough on HD radio, but there wasn't a single one where I couldn't hear the compression artifacts from the low-bitrate AAC they use. These compression artifacts bug the hell out of me and yes I would prefer analog FM (even with some hiss in the background) over the highly compressed digital stream.

    I didn't get to check any AM HD radio stations, but if they're claiming FM HD is like CD and AM HD is like the old FM, then to me the AM HD stations must sound like ass.

  • 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 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.

  • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:16PM (#28112821) Homepage

    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:22PM (#28112903)

    You'll pass on HD radio in favor of what?

    Um, the internet?

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:29PM (#28113001) Journal

    with WiFi and 3G connectivity, what the hell do you need an AM/FM receiver for???

    To substitute "changing the station when an advert comes on" for "paying outrageous fees for data transfer".

    To be able to listen to live broadcasts of sporting events without paying a membership fee to some site.

    To take advantage of the economy of large-scale broadcast delivery instead of relatively expensive parallel non-broadcast media.

    The point of an MP3 player is to listen to the music you want, when you want to. You don't get that from broadcast radio.

    But you do get other things from broadcast radio that mp3 players don't as easily give you: exposure to new music, the ability to listen to music not in your catalog for free, without copyright infringement (I know, that may not be an issue for many slashdotters).

    Yes, mp3 players have a lot of advantages, but they also have disadvantages. Cost to retrieve data and/or purchase music being the big ones in my book.

  • by rawr_one ( 1474675 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:29PM (#28113007) Homepage
    It has tons of applications, sure, but you can be darn certain that most of them will not work due to a combination of the Zune hardware and the "custom version" part. I mean, that's why EVERY other implementation of Windows CE is riddled with inconsistencies and has a whole set of apps that won't work for it. The problem is that they're using a development platform for multiple devices with vastly different hardware, so developers CAN'T just make an app that will work for Windows CE, they have to make it work for every single different version of it.
  • Audio quality (Score:2, Informative)

    by mr_lizard13 ( 882373 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:01PM (#28113481)

    The Apple devices are the same, terrible audio quality especially if you consider the high price.

    Actually, the audio quality of the iPod is generally regarded very highly

    http://www.whathifi.com/Review/Apple-iPod-Classic-120GB/ [whathifi.com]

    http://www.t3.com/ipod-and-mp3-players/all-mp3-players/apple-ipod-shuffle-third-generation-review [t3.com]

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1857401,00.asp [pcmag.com]>

    It's the piss poor earphones that have always let the side down. Swap them out for something better, and the sound shines through.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:07PM (#28113545)

    (I work in the broadcast industry, so I'm posting AC to cover my ass.)

    FM HD Radio, in "MP1 mode", provides 96kbps of bandwidth to receivers. On "good" stations, they'll allocate the full 96kbps of bandwidth to the primary HD audio channel and won't use it for anything else. However, HD radio also lets you divide up this 96kbps into two or more audio streams - you can do 64+32, 64+16+16, 48+16+16+16... not to mention you can dedicate channels for sending data instead of audio.

    Audio is compressed with the "HDC" codec, which is a tightly guarded secret of iBiquity Corp and they refuse to release any details about it. It's a constant-bitrate codec, and apparently the compression is a bit better than MP3 but it's not at the same level as current AAC/SBR codecs.

    Most people who run a secondary audio stream use 64+32. When you're running a 64kbps main audio channel, I actually prefer the sound of the frequency-limited analog FM since it doesn't have digital compression artifacts. Certain songs can bring out HDC's artifacts in a big way.

  • by a.deity ( 665042 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:23PM (#28113751) Homepage
    AAC (both protected and non) support for one. Enhanced battery life, notes, contacts, calendars, and games (minor, but it's something). It's been done. And this is only counting the updates for my first-gen 5GB iPod.
  • Re:Hmm.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:23PM (#28114367)

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

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:17PM (#28115263) Journal

    So you need a digital certificate from Apple. Big deal. Once you get it ($99 developer fee - much cheaper than Visual Studio)

    This is very different from what you've said in your original post up the thread:

    You can develop iPhone/iTouch software and deploy it without any involvement by Apple. Just connect the computer with the application to your device.

    You're also factually incorrect regarding the pricing. XNA Game Studio 3.0 (which is the VS edition that you'd use for Zune game development) is a free download, and you do not need to pay to run XNA games on Zune (Xbox is a different story, but we aren't talking about that here).

  • by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <robert@c[ ]mablue.net ['hro' in gap]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:20PM (#28115323)

    I didn't get to check any AM HD radio stations, but if they're claiming FM HD is like CD and AM HD is like the old FM, then to me the AM HD stations must sound like ass.

    Radio stations, car audio places are the ones claiming that. They'll hint at, if not at least outright advertise (The Mountain in Seattle, I'm looking at you), "listen to us in HIGH DEF". Until you read more and discover that HD is actually "Hybrid Digital", not High Definition at all. And while it can be bumped up in quality, that reduces the number of channels that can be broadcast on the frequency. (The Mountain broadcasts its regular programming, and a second channel, The Delta, in HD).

  • by Divebus ( 860563 ) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @10:25PM (#28118441)

    There were days when Microsoft would innovate. Yes many will scoff, but Microsoft Office is an example.

    Two of the three major Microsoft Office components were bought from other places.

    Word came from Xerox as "Bravo", a GUI based word processor written for the Xerox Alto. Microsoft hired one of Bravo's writers, Charles Simonyi, to oversee development of Word, Multiplan and Excel. Word even used the same method of saving data as Bravo which became a privacy problem for several subsequent versions. Word (and Bravo) simply grabbed and recorded a snapshot of the RAM containing the document along with any other data in the RAM from other documents that passed through.

    Power Point was bought from the developer Forethought, Inc. of Sunnyvale, California.

    Excel grew out of Microsoft's Multiplan and was made possible by some of the first Macintoshes for which it was written.

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