Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday officially launched its rather highly-anticipated Zune HD personal digital media player. The company hopes that rather stylish look, support for digital radio as well as advanced music and media sharing mechanism will make the new Zune HD much more popular than the original device released in 2006.
“With today’s announcement, the Zune business is growing into a comprehensive entertainment service that’s no longer tied to any one screen or device. Zune lets consumers connect to their music, TV shows and movie content and enjoy it on the three screens they use every day,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the TV, video and music business at Microsoft.
Microsoft Zune HD is equipped with OLED multi-touch screen with 3.3" diagonal and 480x272 resolution, metallic case, 16GB of 32GB flash memory, 802.11b/g wireless network controller, FM/HD radio tuner and so on. Thanks to Nvidia Tegra system-on-chip, the Zune HD has rather rich multimedia capabilities due to integrated GeForce 6-class graphics core and other advanced technologies. The player will be able to output video with up to 1280x720 resolution (720p) using special cradle.
Nvidia Tegra 600-series SoCs feature ARM11 central processing unit core, GeForce graphics core with programmable pixel shader and programmable vertex shader support, build-in low-power DDR memory controller, NAND flash memory controller, high-definition video processor that supports MPEG 4, H.264, VC-1/WMV9 decoding, H.264 and MPEG4 encoding and features some other capabilities. Besides, Tegra 600 and Tegra 650 support two displays, 12MPixel camera sensor, USB, Parallel ATA a variety of display outputs, including HDMI, as well as other necessary interfaces.
Microsoft claims that Zune HD will have up to 33 hours battery life in music mode and up to 8.5 hours battery life in video mode. The device is powered by 730mAh lithium ion battery.
The updates to the Zune hardware, software and online services released today, combined with a new Zune video offering on Xbox Live coming later this fall, bring customers instant access to their favorite music and videos virtually anywhere. Later this fall, Zune video will expand to nearly 20 million Xbox Live users, combining the Zune and Xbox video stores so consumers have access to more content provided by Zune.
In addition, Zune HD also features new casual games and non-gaming functionality, such as a calculator and an MSN Weather application. Later this year, Microsoft plans to release free applications such as Twitter for Zune and Facebook for Zune, in addition to 3D video games, such as Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition, Vans Sk8: Pool Service, and Audiosurf Tilt. Games can be added to Zune HD via Zune Marketplace over the Wi-Fi connection or when connected to the Zune PC software. In fact, inclusion of high-performance graphics engine and encouraging game development for Zune, Microsoft will eventually have to compete against Nintendo DSi and Sony PlayStation 3, not talking about Apple iPod touch.
It remains to be seen whether video gaming and advanced ways to acquire media content will help Microsoft to sell significantly more than three – three and a half million Zune HD in three years, the amount of original Zune players sold throughout their lifetime.
Zune HD is available from major retailers with a black 16GB version for $219.99 (estimated retail price) and a platinum 32GB version for $289.99 (ERP). Additional red, green and blue devices are available in both capacities from Zune Originals, where customers can also customize the back of the Zune HD device with art and text etchings to create a unique Zune. Unfortunately, Microsoft Zune HD players are only available in the USA now.