After months of rumors, Microsoft suddenly pulled the covers off its upgraded Zune personal media player late yesterday. It's called the Zune HD, and it's unashamedly gunning after the iPod touch. Does it have a shot?
It turns out that some of the rumors about the Zune were bang on: The new device--which has an industrial look, with beveled instead of rounded edges--is indeed dubbed the HD, and it's got an improved screen that incorporates multitouch. That new display is a 3.3-inch 16:9 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels. But, somewhat surprisingly, instead of being simple LCD it's an OLED one, with all the improved contrast and lower power needs of that technology. And before you get all riled up that "HD" doesn't really apply with a screen that size, the Zune actually can spew out HD video at 720p resolution via a specialized docking cradle. There's also HD radio in there too--making the Zune HD the first portable media player to have the high-definition radio option.
There's also mention of a "full" browser, a "touchscreen QWERTY keyboard" and it can stream music directly over Wi-fi. And Zune's video marketplace app will supercede the Xbox Live's one, which may be taken as an indication that the Zune software will indeed expand beyond the media player itself.
What Microsoft didn't tell us is how powerful the CPU/GPU of the new Zune is, what storage capacity it will have, how much it will cost, or when it'll be released--beyond an approximate "early fall."
Why the heck did Microsoft release this partial info at all? Was there some big information leak in Redmond, and Microsoft acted quickly to mop up any rumors? Does Microsoft have a bigger announcement coming soon, and wanted to clear the way by letting the Zune HD slip first? Is there a ZunePhone on the cards for E3?
We don't know, or course. It is clear that the Zune HD is chasing after the iPod touch, though it's hard to compare the two devices with so few specs available. The touch is also due for an upgrade around the same time as the new iPhone, and current rumors are pointing to it getting a basic camera--something the Zune HD lacks.