Been waiting to get your hands on the much-hyped Zune HD? Online pre-orders for Microsoft's iPod challenger began today at Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and the Microsoft store as the September 15 release date nears. For Zune lovers who incongruously don't like ordering via the Web, in-person Zune reservations begin at Best Buy stores August 16 (select stores will hold a Zune HD preview August 22 and 23).
Apple's iPod has overwhelmingly dominated the mobile media device wars, but Microsoft's latest salvo appears to pack some punch. The Zune HD will run from NVIDIA's Tenga APX2600 processor, a chip the company has been talking up since 2007 for its video playback, 3D interfaces—which should come in handy for rendering video games—and its "full Internet" capabilities (read: it supports Adobe Flash).
Microsoft confirmed today much of what we already knew from information leaked by Amazon and Best Buy earlier in the week—the 16GB Zune will retail for $220, the 32GB for $290—though the company squelched rumors of a September 8 release, making September 15 official. The company has also said the device will be available in five colors, but has not elaborated on what those colors might be.
The Zune HD will go into direct competition with the iPod Touch, and as such it seems it will be a worthy competitor. Both touchscreen devices are Wi-Fi enabled, display video in HD, and provide gaming capabilities. The Zune HD goes further with an HD radio receiver and a power-saving OLED display, and it's priced cheaper than a comparable $299 16GB iPod Touch. But per usual, Microsoft is playing from behind; we can expect Apple to drop the price of the iPod Touch line sometime before the Zune HD hits store shelves. What's worse (for Microsoft, that is) is Apple may have a new iPod offering up its sleeve.
Will Apple drop a Zune HD killer on the market before Microsoft's iPod killer gains any market traction? The iPod line is due for a refresh, and rumors are swirling of an iPhone-style camera coming to the latest iPod touch, a technological advantage that could render the Zune HD a second-tier device before it has the chance to join Apple at the top.