Microsoft plans touch-based Zune HD

According to new images published by Engadget, Microsoft is preparing a third-generation Zune device, presently titled Zune HD. One of the images includes a direct look at the potential device, which appears to have a wide-aspect touchscreen and an Apple-like black and silver exterior, with the rest showing abstract illustrations. Microsoft has previously targeted both the iPod classic and iPod nano with its drive- and flash-based Zunes, respectively, but has yet to offer a model comparable in features to the iPod touch.

  1. HD could stand for a number of things other than video like everyone is jumping on.

    For example, it could simply refer to “Haptic Device”, as in a touch screen controlled player.

    Perhaps it’s a widescreen, touch controlled Hard Drive based player.

    Maybe it is HD video, but only when exported to an external monitor.

    And maybe it’s all three – a haptic based control system with a large capacity hard drive and the ability to output HD video to any compatible monitor or screen.

    Whatever it is, I will, as always, be curious to see it.

  2. I’m no Microsoft fan… but wow… Are the constant negative MS comments really necessary? It’s always a treat to read the ‘Apple can do no wrong’ comments on the pages here… it’s enough to turn people on the brink of “going Apple” away from the company. In my opinion, a new, and better competitor to the iPod Touch can do nothing but force even more improvements in the Apple product. Good for MS. Maybe we’ll finally get a Touch with a decent capacity (for those with very large music/movie collections)?

  3. Good post, Gregory! I purchased a Touch a couple of months ago – amazing device – however I had seriously considered the Zune120. I must say I never considered the iPod 120. All things point to the Zune as having a better interface, a better/larger screen, a better sound chip (read better sound quality), better syncing to a PC (wireless) and a little more overall freedom. The only thing that kept me from the Zune was the lack of Internet, and the “app-ability” of the Touch. Both have their places, and MS does put out great products. Actually, they even release FREE firmware updates that actually throw in new items (games) and make them retroactive for pre-gen devices. Apple always makes you pay for the MAJOR new iPod firmware updates.

  4. “Apple has handily delivered on consumer things we didn’t even know we wanted but Microsoft has [so far] only been able to show you the sizzle off the steak without a shred of imagination in the consumer space.”

    What exactly does this have to do with the Zune that has been well received for the most part? The Zune has better sales number than the iPod did at this point in its history, outsells everything else except the iPod and Sansa players, and is a competent if not particularly imaginative platform.

    Microsoft may not be exactly setting trends, but they are competitors in this arena. Every 4G nano owner can thank MS for what you got and how much it cost because Apple sure wasn’t planning on giving you a 16GB product at any price in 2008, let alone $199. The touch, at this point, is extremely overpriced for what you get, so if MS can leverage their financial power to make reasonably competent product, we’ll all benefit, and if it displays the same general competence as the previous Zunes, consumers will have more choices beyond Apple’s “my way or the highway” design approach.

    I’ve loved my iPods, but they aren’t perfect, and since MS is the only other DAP maker attempting to make a genuine platform and ecosystem instead of one-shot consumer devices, I am more than welcoming of another line in the Zune family.

  5. Now that iTunes has HD movies on offer the natural progression is for a larger capacity touch with HD output i would like to see it with a menu system similar to the Apple tv though they probably are unlikely to do that as it would eat into sales of that device.

  6. “What exactly does this have to do with the Zune that has been well received for the most part?”

    Huh? Optimism without facts to back it up is just emotion – sorry.

    This is a real short conversation: “Microsoft reports $100M decline in Zune revenue” as per their quarterly 10Q filing of December 31, 2008 (it’s on the SEC web site). That’s a 54% drop in a single quarter.

    Here’s another one: Piper Jaffray says “In digital music, 86 percent of students who own an MP3 player indicated that they own an iPod – up from 84 percent last fall. iTunes share also rose to 97 percent from 93 percent last fall”. I didn’t see Zune in there anywhere. How about “Zune Sales Drop 54 Percent As iPod Sales Up 3 Percent”.

    Enough of that. Next: The Zune is two years and five months old. At that point of the timeline, the iPod was selling at a rate of 3 or 4 million a year after a slow start. So far (as of February) total cumulative Zune sales was 3.2M units… total… and dropping.

    “Apple sure wasn’t planning on giving you a 16GB product at any price in 2008, let alone $199”. If you’re talking about the 16GB iPod Nano (4th Generation), that device is what the Zune wants to be. I don’t like it that much – not $199 worth – and I’ll agree all the iPods cost too much.

    I’ll also credit the arrival of the first Zune with accelerating the 80GB iPod price drop to $249. That’s always a good thing but by that time, it was called the “IPod Classic” – it was old. The new iPod lineup made the Zune look three years behind and Microsoft kept comparing the price of the 30GB Zune to the 80GB iPod. We’re not stupid and don’t appreciate being treated like that.

    The history of Apple since 2001 is to annually replace the entire iPod lineup with something better for the same money. They’ve also added things for less money – and some things for more. All the iPod killers, so far, have been new iPods in the face of virtually no competition. Why would any company do that? If that was Microsoft calling the shots, MP3’s would be dead (as attempted by Microsoft in 2001), we’d still have Zune version 1 (like we were stuck with IE 6 forever after Netscape) and $2.49 DRM laden WMA music (like the RIAA wanted in 2007 and Ballmer agreed). That’s the year Apple got EMI and others to agree to drop DRM and hold prices at $0.99. Hmmm…

    I’m with you on the basic thought, though. Competition is good, if nothing else but for price drops. Meanwhile, Apple is taking everyone to school on how to make phones and music players. They’ll probably hit their snag at some point but I don’t see it happening right now. This is their market to lose.

  7. “It’s always a treat to read the ‘Apple can do no wrong’ comments on the pages here…”

    Apple can – and has – done plenty wrong, but it’s nothing like the blinding stupidity displayed by Microsoft lately. At every turn, they do or say something so dumb, display technology so behind the curve [as if they could deliver it anyway] and brag about products so anemic [an insult to the intended customers] that I’d fire someone at the top every day until it gets fixed.

    Microsoft has a lot of smart people working for it and they have some nice products – along with some deadly issues. It’s starting to remind me of Apple in the bad old days. They were coasting on the successes of a decade before, had too many incomplete projects which never shipped, too many seemingly identical products that people were confused about and most things were buggy as hell. Sound familiar?

    In the consumer space, while Microsoft was busy setting everyone up with “Plays For Sure”, Apple developed and delivered the massive iPod ecosystem. While Microsoft was developing their iPod killer [the Zune], Apple was preparing the iPhone which sent an entire industry into a panic. Talk about looking like fools! I don’t know what’s next, but I hear Microsoft talking about touch technology everywhere. If past is prologue, Apple might come out with a neural shunt where you just think about something and it’s done.

    Consumers aren’t as conservative as business class America. Apple has handily delivered on consumer things we didn’t even know we wanted but Microsoft has [so far] only been able to show you the sizzle off the steak without a shred of imagination in the consumer space. Microsoft can no longer rely on the bafflement of consumers to force crudely inferior products on them, nor are they able to deliver something everyone wants. Oops, there ARE alternatives. The cat is out of the bag and Microsoft is in long term trouble if they don’t turn it around – as I hope they do.

  8. @BlueBear

    HD is loosely defined as anything better than SD (Standard Definition) 720×480 interlace. That includes 720×480 progressive scan and above.


    I like your idea of [essentially] movies to go, providing the movie industry allows it. The AppleTV is languishing and that’s one area Apple could get trounced by someone smarter. There’s still time but the competition is really getting a foothold from every angle.

  9. “Huh? Optimism without facts to back it up is just emotion – sorry.”

    And being condescending in the face of facts is just being a jackass, not sorry.

    Decline in sales or not, Microsoft is the number three DAP seller in the U.S. behind only Apple and Sansa. Also, the statement was “well received”, not “best selling”, what your “rebuttal” would have been regarding if it were actually a rebuttal and not some random factoid unrelated to what I said. The Zune’s reviews have been good, whether it’s been as recession proof as the iPod has nothing to do with that.

  10. Jackass? Excuse me? Get your facts straight and fight with yourself over them. The Pontiac Aztec was “well received”. The Sony Walkman X-series is “well received” (the what?). What about all the Cowan S9 or Samsung P2 fans out there? I’m trying to figure out the spin you’re putting on this Zune. It’s an “also ran” product. Do you mean “well received” like “shipping and receiving”? See, that’s a jackass comment. Quoting “facts” that aren’t even remotely true will get a rebuttal and it’s not condescending. Facts aren’t that confusing.

    So, “well received” by whom? I can answer that. Gadget critics and users. They seem to like the improvements and feature checklists of the Zune over time. There’s some work to do before it’s well received by enough customers to keep the product alive and they might get there – or not. Everything else in that ecosystem has collapsed so far. Microsoft stuck with the XBox well beyond reason and they might do the same for the Zune – if they don’t lay off the rest of that division.

    I’ve played with a Zune at Brookstone last Christmas and had the “what were they thinking?” reaction to it. Clunky came to mind. Maybe the touch interface can help that and I haven’t seen one. I don’t think Microsoft is satisfied with selling anything at the 4% (and slipping) level of an industry they announced their intention to dominate. I can find at least as many references to the largest portion of their demographic being embarrassed to carry a Zune, so “well received” isn’t a very good data point when it’s been humiliating by every other measure.

    “Outsells everything except the iPod and Sansa”… the Zune car pack at #81 is the only thing Zune related in the top 100 things sold at Amazon. The Sansa Fuze 4GB is at #35. Everything else music player related is iPod that I can see. Your facts are good there but need perspective. There’s a 6 outlet power strip and a $1,000 specialty camera that’s outselling the Zune.

    Look, I’m not going to waste my time or yours any more. Love the Zune, hate the Zune, love the Sansa – I don’t care. I use cassettes, not 8-track.

  11. I would just like to thank Steve Wiedemann (post 7) for a very well written and thought out reply to my ‘semi-rant’ :). There were no flames and you addressed my issues handily. People like you make communities like this a safe place to share opinions without fear of childlike retribution. ilounge is, for the most part, a great place to discuss the products we love.

  12. Well, thanks Gregory.

    It’s really a shame to see a great company like Microsoft falling all over themselves in the consumer market. It’s clearly not their core competency. Based on everything else, I’m not sure what is anymore.

    The good news is that Microsoft has been de-fanged enough lately to really start working with some very good technologies instead of trying to crush them like before. If getting humiliated in the market makes them take stock like that, it’s a good thing. It would be great if they continued transforming themselves but first they’d need to shed some of their old Cold Warriors (like Ballmer) and ship compelling products instead of relying on their famous FUD campaigns before they can really focus on their future. Dominating a market means making good products now. Maybe the new Zune would be a fresh start.

    Everyone might think this is all about ease of use, having a cool product with great features, being able to listen to music anywhere etc… Nope. All of it has to do with making money. That’s the only reason all this exists.

    Most importantly, never fall in love with products or corporations because they won’t love you back.

  13. I had a zune30 and got bored with it.The Zune marketplace has just music and music videos until recently.When you installed the zune marketplace you need to download windows installer 3.1 and other programs just to use it and it was real slow.I got mad and trashed the zune.I recently got an ipod touch and i love itunes and my ipod and won’t buy any Microsoft products after that zune2k bug temporarily disabled all the zune30s.

  14. Andy, … Right now not including any touch systems the Zune 4-120 Gb is much nicer,(bigger screen on larger Zune’s) and is faster and has alot more nice futures…you should have shiped your Zune30 to me -_-

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