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.
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.
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:
- Get an HD movie (four times the size of SD)
- Get the special dock (no price is listed)
- Hook it up to an HDTV
- 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.
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.
- OS is based on Windows CE. WinCE? Wince? That’s still around? Whatever, we don’t get to see much of that either.
- 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.