Zune HD: Three Strikes And You’re Out, Microsoft

May 27th, 2009 | By | Category: iPods & Portable Media Players

Microsoft has confirmed details on the upcoming Zune HD portable media player and, based on their announcement, it’s time to put away the Zune player under the “three strikes you’re out” rule.

Here are the highlights of the new Zune HD:

  • Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio receiver. Users also will have access to the additional song and artist data broadcast by HD Radio stations as well as additional channels from their favorite stations multicasting in HD.
  • OLED touch screen interface (480×272 resolution)
  • HD-compatible output
  • Full-screen Internet browser optimized for multitouch functionality.
  • Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for streaming to the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store.

We’re calling this a strike – because the Zune HD is two years behind Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch platform – and Microsoft has the liability of the Zune platform’s history. The one distinguishing feature, HD Radio, is a refinement of a feature that most people have shown zero interest in.

Zune On Xbox

Fortunately for Microsoft, though, they’ve got a plan B:

Zune will extend its video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17 million international Xbox LIVE subscribers.

Zune will be a premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalog of TV and film to the platform. Zune will occupy the first slot within the Xbox user interface in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new consumers for the first time.

In other words, they’re going to leverage the Xbox brand to push the Zune platform.

Only time will tell if this is a last-ditch effort to save the Zune brand or if Microsoft will find some real synergy between the Xbox and the Zune.

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18 Responses to “Zune HD: Three Strikes And You’re Out, Microsoft”

  1. Rob Greenlee says:

    It is shocking how negative you can be toward a device that is getting a lot of positive buzz right now. I understand that you are a Apple fanboy, but you must realize that it is good to have competition in the marketplace and being that this is a podcasting blog that you might see this as a good development for podcasting. Plus many experts in this area of portable digital media say that this device contains innovation. Apple has a many years head-start in this area and does keep improving in the face of a tough economy and tough competition. Microsoft Zune is improving and getting better all the time. Zune is also going beyond the portable media player device and will be showing up on the Xbox and other MS-based digital media player/screen platforms. Please start seeing Zune as more then than a standalone portable hardware player device platform as it is becoming so much more.

  2. Jan says:

    Hi Rob, it is shocking how positive you can be toward a device that is such a boring and uninspired piece of technology and that you never had in your hands. I understand that you are a Microsoft fanboy, but you must realize that there’s no AppStore for Zune.

  3. Mark says:

    I too am shocked at how you can report how bad a device is without even looking at it or experiencing it. It might not be that long that your Apple super heroes are charged with anti-competitive practices and have to open up the apple store to far better hardware devices.

  4. msbpodcast says:

    Its an uninspired and unappealing piece of work.

    Its too angular to actually be comfortable when held in the palm of the hand, while not having its edges sharp enough to be “futuristic” looking.

    Once again Microsoft shows the design aesthetics its actually become famous for.

    Its design flaws tell people that this can be used, by robots.

    The metal back looks uncomfortable to hold and the front looks like Soviet era hardware.

    That one button harkens back to the PCjr.

    This product will tear holes in the shirt pocket of few people who actually bother to buy one.

    There are some schools of design that can make bricks attractive and look light.

    There are some schools of design that can make a female nude figure ugly.

    This looks like the original luggable Macintosh, before they fired whoever was the unimaginative drone who came up with the hideous boxy thing.

  5. msbpodcast says:

    Jan came up with an important distinction between the iPod and the Zune…

    The source for content is based on different origins.

    Apple gets the fact that music is first and foremost an emotional appeal, unlike the entirely rational justification that Microsoft gives for its subscription service (which treats music like a valueless commodity which will get cut off the minute you stop paying for it, [because Microsoft can and will do that.])

    I’m sure that Microsoft was quite right in valuing the contents of a 160GB iPod Classic at tens of thousands of dollars. Microsoft basically said that people valued their collections and their own tastes in music that much.

    Yes they do! And they listen to it too.

    Its not like the Muzak playing the same denatured shite over and over, whether there’s anybody listening in the elevator or not.

    Apple took the right approach for a store, where music IS a commodity, but they stayed true to the ethos that people’s musical choices are personal, intimate and not entirely rational, much like the musicians who composed and played it.

    Apple also gets the fact that people want to customize their iPod Touches and iPhones with applications, so they extended their Xcode software development environment to write software for it.

    —-

    Mark, anti competitive behavior only works when the company acts to restrict trade.

    Apple is not trying to restrict trade.

    They are providing a platform which is usable by others for them to make their own money.

    They have a “de facto” monopoly market by virtue of the quality of the products, not through under-handed market manipulation. They aren’t Microsoft.

  6. James Lewin says:

    Rob –

    As a member of the Zune team, does it make sense for you to dismiss Zune criticism as the ravings of Apple fanboys?

    To date the Zune has failed to capitalize on Microsoft’s huge investment and tons of press, because it’s a relatively uninspired, derivative platform that’s at least two years behind its well-established competition.

    There’s zero interest in the Zune among teens.

    That’s not because Apple has better marketing for the iPod. It’s because Apple’s delivered a much stronger portable media platform than the Zune.

    It’s painful to watch Microsoft try to put lipstick on this pig. And it’s hard to watch great people at Microsoft executing weak strategy.

    Microsoft is still trying to make a better portable media player, Rob. Meanwhile, Apple’s working on eliminating the portable media player category.

    If Microsoft wants the Zune to go anywhere, it needs to stop dismissing critics as fanboys, and instead imagine a device that will turn people into Zune fans.

  7. Todd Cochrane says:

    All

    The main thing people are forgetting here is that Zune is one place we are seeing podcast consumption growth. Significantly greater than Apple and iTunes. Across the board the Zune is gaining marketshare on Apple every month.

    What is important to podcasters is listeners and I don’t care how they listen. While we track 1000′s of shows we see across the board that the zune is gaining podcasters listeners.

    Todd..

  8. arjun says:

    It’s probably too early to call the Zune HD out – but James is right – it looks like it’s two years too late. I don’t think the hardware looks bad, but it’s not going to make people switch, either.

    Todd – why are podcasters are getting Zune listeners?

    I though the Zune podcast directory was pretty small.

  9. LuvMyZune says:

    Time for the iPod fanboys to open their eyes – the Zune HD is going to be awesome!

    The design is cool and the screen looks fantastic.

    IE on the Zune will blow away Safari on the iPhone, too, especially if it can run Flash.

    Anybody know what’s happening with the Zune and the XBox, though? Are you going to be able to sync the Zune to the XBox instead of using your computer?

  10. I think the broader question is the market future for dedicated devices, be they Zune or iPod – in the face of Smartphones or their App Store compatible derivatives. The advantage of a Zune or iPod Nano in the gym or track – and including the FM radio on the Zune were and are still key features for that one audio consumption environment. But the ability to add useful, entertaining, or at least novel apps, inexpensively is a powerful draw for consumers in all demographics in almost every other environment. I’ll put up with the bulk of the smartphone while on the treadmill for one device flexibility. on a phone that I have with me anyway.

  11. Rob Greenlee says:

    Arjun, The size of the Zune podcast directory has little to do with the success of the Zune Marketplace software and device platform to deliver an audience to podcasts. I would highly recommend that you download the FREE Zune Marketplace Media Player software – http://zune.net/en-us/software/download/default.htm. Zune users are avid podcast users and are getting video podcasts more and more. Our growth in users for podcasts on the platform is only going up every month with millions and millions of podcast subscriptions be made. We have the best podcasts that most users want and users can add their own favorite feeds into their own account collection, we are also seeing many personalized podcast feeds from companies like Mediafly. That being said, we are adding new podcasts everyday and have about 15,000 audio and video feeds now. Zune also has its podcast catalog online with streaming episode support at http://social.zune.net/podcasts to see this. Apple does not offer a web-based catalog. Rob Greenlee, Zune Podcast Producer

  12. Mike says:

    I love Zune – best portable audio device I ever bought.

  13. [...] review mirrors our thoughts from when Microsoft announced the Zune HD – that Microsoft was stuck in a rut trying to compete with Apple on Apple’s terms, [...]

  14. Nate says:

    Ive had my Zund HD 4 a month now and I absolutely love it. Im no MS Fanboy or an applefanboy.. I've used both on several occations and the Zune HD has a much better audio quality than the itouch and other ipods. The marketplace is also amazing with the zune pass. Being able to download as many songs as you wish… who could ask for more, while keeping 10 of those at every end of the month. Yes apple first made mp3 players the best first but now i think its time for them to step down and let someone else lead for a while.
    -Nate

  15. Bobboosh says:

    Used to treat MS products like the plague. Software, hardware, didn't matter. Got a great deal on a Zune 8gb last year and found it to be a great music player. Loved the navigation and sound quality.
    Had been reading all the hype, comments, and rumors about the Zune HD up to September. I thought $219.00 was a great price for a touch-screen player, and I already had the Zune marketplace installed and was used to it. With no bias, love, hate, or anything opinion going in, coming out I will tell you Zune HD has won me over. I don't care much for apps but even so, I would like a calendar and maybe an email client. Otherwise, the sound quality, 'fee' of the Zune HD, 'coolness' factor, and the menu interaction is stunning to say the least. I'm not posting to take away from ipod touch, or to sell anybody on Zune HD, but I have to tell you, this is a great device.

  16. Bobboosh says:

    Used to treat MS products like the plague. Software, hardware, didn't matter. Got a great deal on a Zune 8gb last year and found it to be a great music player. Loved the navigation and sound quality.
    Had been reading all the hype, comments, and rumors about the Zune HD up to September. I thought $219.00 was a great price for a touch-screen player, and I already had the Zune marketplace installed and was used to it. With no bias, love, hate, or anything opinion going in, coming out I will tell you Zune HD has won me over. I don't care much for apps but even so, I would like a calendar and maybe an email client. Otherwise, the sound quality, 'fee' of the Zune HD, 'coolness' factor, and the menu interaction is stunning to say the least. I'm not posting to take away from ipod touch, or to sell anybody on Zune HD, but I have to tell you, this is a great device.

  17. Bobboosh says:

    please forgive typos its been a long day

  18. Josh says:

    I love my Zune HD way more than my friends like thier ipod touches, I am even typing this message on my HD right now!!!!!!!!

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