A triple dose of good news today for those who resent Apple’s stranglehold on the PMP market. Not only is the Zune HD now on sale starting at $219.99, but Microsoft has finally come clean and admitted that in the upcoming months it plans to bombard the Zune faithful and converts alike with apps such as Twitter for Zune and Facebook for Zune, and games like Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition, Vans Sk8: Pool Service and Audiosurf Tilt. Not only that, but Zune HD owners can also look forward to streaming HD video to the Xbox 360 as well as the ability to purchase and rent TV shows, movies and more. Microsoft, this is yours to mess up… Please don’t. Anyone have a shiny new Zune HD squarely in his or her sights today?
As it turns out, this weekend’s rumored Zune HD preview at Best Buy was the real deal. Tens or even dozens of anxious soon-to-be Zune HD owners (we kid; we want it now) gathered to see the sexy new PMP first hand and one of them even managed to snap an extremely blurry shot of a curious menu item. Mmmm, “Apps”. The attendee tried to access the mysterious menu but lack of Wi-Fi rendered his attempts fruitless. Word on the street is that the Apps menu will be home to various games at launch but we’re still not sure what else will find its way there — certainly something however, lest the menu heading read “Games”. Also of note, one preview attendee claims that the host of this event confirmed the existence of a Zune SDK. This is definitely rumor status right now but it would certainly go a long way to support the inevitable arrival of a Zune app store of sorts.
As if anyone had doubts surrounding the legitimacy of yesterday’s Zune HD leak, today Microsoft confirmed availability for September 15th and let it be known that pre-orders for the black 16GB and platinum 32GB models are now being filled through Zune.net, Microsoft, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. In case you’re waiting on the other five colors that the Tegra-powered portable will be available in at launch, you’ll just have to sit tight for now. Don’t cry though — maybe we can cheer you up by letting you know that pricing is now 100 percent confirmed: $219.99 for the 16GB model and $289.99 for the 32GB model. We’ll take six of each, thank you.
Mark your calendars and get your credit cards ready as the Zune HD will be dropping in just over a month. Thanks to a leaked Best Buy pre-order flyer, we now have a tentative launch date to accompany the rumored pricing for the Zune HD. Zero hour for Microsoft’s slick new portable media player is September 15th, a week later than previously reported. With all the pre-launch leaks out of the way, now all we have to do is wait for Microsoft to make these details official and see if the folks in Redmond can do so before those rumored iPods try to steal the HD’s limelight. Hit the jump for some more Best Buy Zune HD signage and a quick peek at the Zune HD packaging.
We wouldn’t go as far as to call Microsoft’s upcoming Zune refresh a PMP hail mary, but it’s pretty clear that a lot is riding on Redmond’s upcoming players. So far we really like what we’ve seen of the Zune HD — and that statement is now expanded to include pricing. Last night some Best Buy inventory screen caps revealed the Zune HD’s price points and as of this morning we can consider them confirmed thanks to Amazon. App Store aside, we’re looking at a device far more capable and exciting compared to Apple’s iPod touch, and according to Amazon’s pre-order page, the 16GB will launch at $219.99 (compared to $299 for the 16GB iPod touch) and the 32GB model will hit the streets at $289.99 (compared to $399 for the 32GB iPod touch). Yeah, that’s no typo — you’ll be able to get a 32GB Zune HD for $9.01 less than a 16GB iPod touch. The Best Buy screenshots also add weight to the previously rumored September 8th launch date so it looks like we’ve got less than a month until lift off. The only question is whether or not Apple’s impending iPod touch refresh will tout enough bells and whistles at launch to overshadow Microsoft’s new gem. Hit the jump for the Best Buy images.
Perhaps the current crop of personal media players on the market just isn’t doing anything for you. It’s perfectly understandable of course, what with modern mobile phones catching up to dedicated players more and more each day. This very fact is the reason that Microsoft’s upcoming Zune HD continues to pique our interest. 3.3-inch 480 x 272 OLED capacitive touchscreen display, built-in HD Radio receiver, HD output (requires an optional dock), Wi-Fi, integrated web browser, multitouch support and Xbox LIVE integration… And of course we recently learned this little spitfire will pack NVIDIA’s Tegra processor at its core. According to a Gizmodo tipster, it looks like Microsoft plans to offer this peppy PMP in 16GB and 32GB varieties — fair enough — and it may be shooting for a September 8th launch. It’s as good a date as any we suppose, and leaves plenty of time to get early adopters on board before a nice little price drop/sale in time for the holidays. Why not?
Its official, folks. The Zune HD is real and is slated to drop this fall. All the rumored specs are here – 3.3 inch 480 x 272 OLED capacitive touchscreen display, built-in HD Radio receiver, HD output (requires an optional dock), Wi-Fi, integrated web browser, multitouch support and Xbox LIVE integration. Attendees at E3 will get the first look at the Xbox LIVE integration in what Microsoft calls “a game-changing entertainment experience”. Sounds sweet and may turn out to be the one item that differentiates it from the competition. Hit the jump for the full press release.
Teamxbox has let loose with a slew of details on the rumored Zune HD, some of which they have reportedly been sitting on since last August. According to their sources, the ZuneHD will be a convergent device, incorporating some of the gaming features of the Xbox and the multimedia features of the Zune. Codenamed xYz to highlight its position between the Xbox and the Zune, the new device is rumored to have a large WVGA touchscreen display and “hardware features not found on any handheld on the market.” The Zune HD will most definitely not be a phone and will not directly compete with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile offerings, it has been said. The portable entertainment device will supposedly feature the graphical user interface of the New Xbox Experience and will be a “Live Anywhere” device, integrating the online services offered by Microsoft Live, Xbox, Zune and the recently announced Sky marketplace. Interestingly enough, teamxbox claim that their sources on the ZuneHD hardware coincide with the recently leaked “chassis 1″ specification which include an ARM 6+ processor, Open GL ES 2.0 graphics HW (can we say Nvidia Tegra), 256MB plus of RAM, min of 1GB internal memory, 3.5″+ WVGA or FWVGA touchscreen display with multi-touch, aGPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and more. If this conglomerate of recent rumors hold true, then the ZuneHD may turn the PMP world upside down if and when it launches.
June 2009 is going to be a big month: WWDC (iPhone announcement), the Palm Pre will be in action and rumor has it Microsoft has big news for the Zune. While many would speculate that the latter would mean a Zune phone from Microsoft, we’re thinking more along the lines of a Zune HD. After all, Microsoft explicitly said, “Microsoft is not going into the phone hardware business. Microsoft is not building a Zune-specific phone.” Stranger things have happened though, right? This fire was started by a Twitter account that detailed what would be included in Office 2010, such as Twitter and Facebook integration. It then went on to say “New product launch, that’s all I’m allowed to say. Hold off from buying an iPhone/Pre.” That would imply a phone, so we’re not sure where things are headed at this point. Whatever it is, at this point the only real reason to hold off on buying a new iPhone or Pre is to avoid the lines.
UPDATE: Apparently the Twitter account that started this new wave of excitement was revealed to be fake and Microsoft’s Office 2010 site accidentally linked to it. Mmm. No new Zune phone, no Zune HD until later this year. Moving along people, nothing more to see here.
There’s a reason most companies have a policy against responding to rumors and speculation. When a company responds to a rumor with PR-speak it simply spawns more speculation. Of course sometimes that’s exactly what a company wants to do — fan the flames, keep the hype going, etc. If we were betting men (and a woman), we’d say this just so happens to be one of those times. Yesterday the Journal ran a rumor that Microsoft and Verizon were in the kitchen cooking up a handset to combat the iPhone. In a nutshell, Microsoft was said to be tweaking its OS with a multimedia focus, assisting with the design and that a third party would be building the handset. Microsoft’s official response: “Microsoft is not going into the phone hardware business.” Right then. While the rumor does suggest Microsoft would be assisting with the design of the handset, it puts Microsoft on the software side of the project for the most part. This hardly suggests Redmond is getting into the “phone hardware business”. So there you have it folks — Microsoft might be working with Verizon and using its Danger resources to develop a handset and modified OS that attack the iPhone on all fronts, but its not getting into the phone hardware business. Microsoft’s full response:
Microsoft is not going into the phone hardware business. Microsoft is not building a Zune-specific phone. We’re deepening our relationships with our hardware partners in order to create even better performing phones that are competitively priced, have the features people want, that are easy-to-use and just downright lust-worthy. The upcoming availability of Windows Mobile 6.5 software will enable our OEM partners to build even more compelling devices in a wide-range of form factors for customers around the world.
We have to admit it… We’re a little afraid. Afraid of what you might ask? Afraid that all this hype surrounding the now-reportedly confirmed Zune HD is going to be the height of excitement with regards to the device. Hype is good, hype is great, but you need something special to follow the hype in order for it to stick. Let’s take a look at the known specs:
- ~3.6-inch OLED full touchscreen
- NVIDIA Tegra powered
- 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB versions
- HDMI Connection to stream straight to your TV
- HD Radio
- Web browser
- Wi-Fi compatible, with wireless marketplace
- Released, early fall
- International release of the Zune device itself
- Home AV packs, Car packs, Charge packs
Sounds good and fun, but there’s definitely nothing so far that would (or should) draw much attention. HD radio? Mmm hmm. The Zune platform is supposedly in the midst of an overhaul which is nice but we need a wow-factor here. The average consumer is most definitely not going to pass on an iPod Touch and scoop up a Zune HD because of a high resolution display and HD radio, that’s for sure. Long story short, we hope Microsoft learned something from its experiences with the current Zune model.
Back in January after we learned that Zune sales and platform revenue was down $100 million under the previous quarter, we asked whether the Zune was ultimately doomed to die an unglamorous death or if Microsoft had an ace up its sleeve. Last night, Engadget posted some images that they feel, based upon some chitchat with sources, are of an upcoming touchscreen PMP known as the Zune HD. Because of the lack of anything other than a few promotional shots we’re going to have to resort to the age-old game of speculation when discussing the Zune HD, but if all of this turns out to be true we think it reasonable to expect that the Zune HD would ship with a display that approaches 720p and (based upon our measurement of the screen in the images) an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 — one of two standard aspect ratios used by mainstream films. But as we say so often in the tech blogging world, we shall see. Would a Zune HD have any chance of finding its way into your pocket or has the Zune ship already sailed for you?
It’s not all good news for Redmond today, unfortunately. Tucked away in a SEC quarterly earnings report, Microsoft revealed that the Zune platform is faltering. Sales of Zune devices have dwindled and Zune platform revenue fell by $100 million, a 54% decrease compared to the same quarter last year. Is this poor performance the death knell for the Zune? Its main competitor, the iPod of course, saw a 3% increase in sales with Apple selling 22.7 million units during its most recent quarter ending earlier this month. With iPods on the upswing, the Zune on the downswing and Microsoft cutting back, will the Zune end up on the chopping block like Microsoft’s Aces Studio or does Microsoft have an ace up its sleeve that will rejuvenate the Zune?