Microsoft today formally unveiled the Zune HD, their latest attempt to compete with the Apple iPod in the personal media player market:
Zune HD, the next generation of Microsoft Corp.’s portable digital media player, is available now for pre-order and is set to hit store shelves on Sept. 15. The player, available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, is the first touch-screen Zune and includes powerful playback technology to give you a different way to experience media on the go.
The online brochure is at http://www.zune.net/zunehd and you can preorder at Amazon, BestBuy, Walmart, or the Microsoft Store with the 16GB version retailing for US$220 and the 32GB version going for US$290. Full retail availability is scheduled for September 15.
So what’s new about the Zune HD?
- Built-in HD Radio™ receiver. Allows you to listen to higher-quality sound than is available from traditional radio channels, as well as access additional programming through HD2 and HD3 multicast channels from many of your favorite local FM radio stations at no extra cost.
- HD video output capabilities. Supports HD video playback from the device through a premium HDMI A/V docking station (sold separately) directly to an HDTV in 720p, making it easy to enjoy better-than-DVD-quality video on your own big screen at home.
- OLED touch screen. Allows you to easily flip through music, movies and other content. The 3.3-inch glass screen and 16:9 widescreen format display (480×272 resolution) offer a premium viewing experience.
- Built-in Wi-Fi. Allows for browsing, streaming or downloading new music from Zune Marketplace.
- Internet browser. Full-screen Web browsing, optimized for the multitouch screen with zoom-in and zoom-out gestures.
- Accessories, at home and on the road. Zune HD and AV Dock charges and syncs players while playing supported 720p HD videos on HDTVs. Play HD Radio, music and podcasts from your Zune HD device through your car stereo using the Zune Premium Car Pack.
The target is clearly Apple’s iPod Touch which is roughly comparable but about US$100 more expensive and lacks the radio. However, the Zune HD lacks the equivalent of Apple’s very popular App Store, at least so far. Still there may be room for Microsoft to gain some share at the high end of the personal media player market although there are many skeptics.