updated 08:40 pm EDT, Tue May 26, 2009
MS Confirms Zune HD
Microsoft tonight confirmed the existence of the Zune HD, its first-ever touchscreen media player. The company readily acknowledges that the player is meant to compete against the iPod touch and will have a 3.3-inch, 480x272 OLED screen with a multi-touch interface. It earns its name through the first inclusion of a portable HD Radio tuner for digital broadcasts as well as HD video playback through a special dock. For the first time on a Zune, the HD will also use its Wi-Fi to browse the web and should come with a special version of Internet Explorer designed for touch.
Contrary to some rumors, it will be based on Windows CE rather than Windows Mobile and is heavily modified from the standard version.
To complement the player, Microsoft plans to replace the Xbox Video Marketplace with a Zune-based video service that will also be shared with the Zune HD itself. It's not certain if videos downloaded from one device will be playable on the other. The company didn't tell Electronista whether games would be involved but hinted at touchscreen-specific games and said next week's E3 event would highlight the link between Xbox Live and the Zune. One rumor has had cross-compatible
games showing on the Live Marketplace that would be playable on both platforms.
The company plans an aggressive launch and will ship the Zune HD in the fall both to North America and, for the first time, Europe. It anticipates the new player at least initially taking over from current flash players while hard drive-based players co-exist.
Microsoft's confirmation sparks significant new life into its media player efforts, which have struggled in the past year as it failed to produce a significant revision to its second-generation player and shed $100 million in revenue through declining sales. It's one of the last major media player creators to have its own touchscreen player.