Blog Post

Microsoft: We Couldn’t Kill the iPod, Maybe We Can Kill the iPod touch

You’ve got to give Microsoft (s msft) credit. Having failed at making the Zune an “iPod killer,” they’ve given up and are trying to make it an “iPod touch killer.” Why go after big brother when little brother has kicked your butt for two years? Beats me; you’d have to ask Microsoft. All I can do is look at the Zune HD and see what it’s about.

HD Radio

FM radio was touted in the original Zunes. Lots of music players added radio since it was considered a major feature the iPod (s aapl) lacked. Nope. Including FM didn’t make the devices more desirable than an iPod.

Now it’s HD radio, which is FM (and AM) with better quality because it’s digital (remember, the word “digital” makes everything better). So Microsoft is clinging to the belief that FM radio is still what every music device needs, it was obviously just the quality of the signal that was the problem.

HD Output

You’d think a device with “HD” in the name would play HD video on the device, but this one doesn’t. Not sure what the point of HD on a 3.3” display would be anyway. However, it does output HD via a special dock. Here’s the process:

  1. Get an HD movie (four times the size of SD)
  2. Get the special dock (no price is listed)
  3. Hook it up to an HDTV
  4. Enjoy movie!

Basically, you’re using your portable device as a source HD player. When it’s not being used as a source player (obviously not its primary purpose), it’s just a portable video player with files larger than they need to be, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272.


Two years after the iPod touch, Microsoft will have a touchscreen on their music player. To Microsoft’s credit, it’s an OLED display. Good, quality stuff. To Microsoft’s discredit, it’s a cheaper 16:9 ratio. Some people make a big deal out of this (as do PC makers) because it’s a “true” HD ratio, but the reality is that when you’re not watching a video it’s nothing but a smaller display (480 x 272 instead of the touch’s 480 x 320).


With Wi-Fi you can download tunes from the Zune Marketplace. Nice, but functionality that’s old hat to an iPod touch user. You can also stream music from the marketplace if you’re a Zune Pass subscriber (which is also a feature of current Zunes). This is a use for Zune Pass that makes sense. Seriously, it’s one thing about the Zune I can give it credit for.

Web Browser

The web browser is a heavily customized version of Internet Explorer, so it’s probably bad. Go ahead, criticize me for bashing it when I haven’t even seen it yet, but then again no one’s seen it because the Zune HD is primarily just talk now anyway. What I have seen is IE in it’s best possible setting — IE 8 on Windows 7 — and it still falls behind Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Heck, Opera, too.

Other Stuff

  • OS is based on Windows CE. WinCE? Wince? That’s still around? Whatever, we don’t get to see much of that either.
  • Accelerometer
  • Software keyboard
  • Check out the UI. Why would your stock photo clearly show that your UI guys can’t even fit one of the menu items on the screen? It’s that small 16:9 screen, I bet. Way to show off that deficiency, guys.

The bottom line: Unless you’re sucked in by “HD” in the name, the only thing that’ll grab you about this thing is the propaganda campaign Microsoft has going on for it.

I wrote about this before, but Microsoft is being “old school” lately. They’re partying like it’s 1999, pre-announcing months in advance and getting the tech press in high gear. We won’t know until September — assuming Microsoft is on time — what this thing is really like, but by then it will almost certainly have a new iPod touch with which to compete.

24 Responses to “Microsoft: We Couldn’t Kill the iPod, Maybe We Can Kill the iPod touch”

  1. Victor Aguilar

    you know everybody tells me that i guess i am just not smart enough to be in this conversation ohwell sorry my opinion does not matter lol. i will take those periods and comma’s if you dont mind but leave the periods to yourself

  2. Victor Aguilar

    its news people the real zune hd is not and will not be released until september 5th (possible)the zune hd that Ballmer presented was a prototype and the specs that was released is not even half the specs its going to have if you read any articles by microsoft about info on the zune hd it states any info regarding the zune hd can be changed before release especially now that samsung has just created the WVGA OLED and what do you mean cheaper 16:9 nice hahaha but anyways its going to be good mp3 player and ipod is a good mp3 player aswell why not just share the wealth

  3. Anita Mann

    @Joey Miliko

    Wow, you are not very bright are you. Already selling your Touch BEFORE the Zune HD is even available. Stupid is as stupid does.

  4. Joey Miliko

    Say what you want about it – but I actually like it. I’m selling my iPod touch as we speak. The Zune HD interface makes the Ipod touch look cluttered and boring

  5. chano

    @ Ronin
    We might take you seriously if you could only spell the simplest of words.
    Duh. Typical MS shill speak. Under-educated and over-opinionated.
    Drivel on whydontcha?

  6. Yes, it is built on WinCE 6, wah! There are adapters for the iPod that give you FM, wah!
    MS is always 2-3 years behind the curve. The main reason is it is too big and cannot be nimble enough to make changes rapidly. So we will see an iPod killer from MS around 2010 or 2011.

  7. yet another steve

    Based on WinCE? Or running it?
    They announced no app/game story, right? Which makes them competing with the iPod Touch of 2007, when it was about the hardware and being a media player.

    The iPod killer has already been shipped. It’s called the iPhone.

    But hey MS you’ve got managers and business plans and technology and stuff. And plenty of fanboys to make it sound like your preannouncements actually matter.

  8. Say what you will about the new Zune, but I wish my iPhone had a FM tuner and offered a music subscription service. I listen to a lot of music and currently have a Rhapsody account so that I can listen to artists/albums that I’m not familiar with and figure out what is worth buying. And when I get bored I listen to the radio for something different (i,e, NPR). Hopefully this increased competition will get me one of two of these features for my iPhone.

    I have to say I’m surprised though that Microsoft did not announce games for the Zune through the Xbox arcade today at E3. That seems like an obvious move on their part since it would add a ton of value to the Zune. And MXS, it’s the business model that has game consoles (Wii excluded since it’s based on old hardware) lose money on the hardware and then make their profit on the software and peripherals, kind of like how AT&T loses money on every iPhone they sell but make it up with the subscription.

  9. And he forgot to also say that the “Premier gaming console” is only premier as long as MS will keep loosing money on every single one they sell ….. LOL

    Anyways, the article was talking about iPod if you didn’t noticed, so why do you bring up here consoles? This might be appropriate when Apple makes one …

  10. Jack Ronin

    Go ahead and buy a new apple…anything, better have enough credit on that card. Playstaion was number one for years then xbox came out and everyone laughed, it is now the Premier gaming console, not jump up and down on a pad, throw your arms at the screen…the Premier gaming console. Apple is in their sites, apple would be a lost plane over the atlantic if it wasn’t for the ipod, thats ok those days are coming

  11. Whenever I see devices like this with “HD” in the name I just move on.. It’s the same device with new marketing fluff bundled in.

    But seriously, one of the guys here at work was looking at an article about this new device and from a distance I thought that maybe Apple had released a new iPhone / iPod Touch..

  12. Devan

    its the apps on the ipod touch which make it such a great phone.

    They have an amazing sdk, which allows great apps to be developed.

    The Zune has no sdk, and no apps.