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Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday disclosed the first official details regarding its next-generation portable digital media player. As expected, the new Zune HD will feature touch-screen, high-definition radio tuner as well as a new version of Windows CE operating system and revamped Internet browser.

“This device is created to go head to head with the iPod Touch. Zune buyers will also be able to play HD content on their TVs via a dock,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Microsoft Zune, in an interview with Cnet News.com web-site.

Microsoft indicated that Zune HD will use flash memory, even though the company will continue to ship its Zune versions with hard disk drives. In addition, Zune HD will be equipped with OLED multi-touch screen with 3.3" diagonal and 480x272 resolution. Unfortunately, no additional technical details have been revealed: capacity and pricing of flash memory inside Zune is unknown; it is also unclear whether the new Zune HD supports 802.11n Wi-Fi or relies on older-generation 802.11g.

The main feature that will distinguish Zune from its competitors, such as Apple iPod Touch, will be HD radio, which provides high-quality music experience. By contrast, Apple iPod does not support any radio at all. Another important feature of Zune HD is gradual integration of Xbox Live and Zune store services into one. For example, the device will be able to output video in 1280x720 resolution (720p) to HDTVs.

“It’s really one of the first portable HD radio receivers out there.It’s going to be important for us to communicate the value of HD radio since it is a fairly nascent technology,” claimed Mr. Stephenson.

Microsoft Zune HD will be released in early Fall, however, its pricing is yet to be unveiled.

Microsoft remained tight-lipped regarding Zune HD’s video-gaming capabilities as well as potential plans to create Zune-based music cell-phone. But while gaming abilities of Zune HD are projected to be discussed at the forthcoming E3 trade-show, other Zune-based products are projected to emerge only in the coming years.

“This is enough work for us this year. Going forward, Zune will start to surface on multiple platforms across the ecosystem. Expect to see it pop up in many different places,” said Mr. Stephenson.

Tags: Microsoft, Zune, Xbox

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