The rumors about an Xbox branded mobile entertainment device as successor to the Zune HD while competing with Apple’s iPod and Sony’s Playstation are growing. A month ago I spotted Microsoft filing for three trademarks:
These three trademarks had computer game software as their description. Microsoft enthusiasts have found that Microsoft owns the domain name XboxFusion.com which has led many to believe that Microsoft might be either announcing:
Xbox Fusion as their new portable device, or
Xbox Fusion will be the amalgamation of Zune services and Xbox LIVE.
In my opinion, Fusion is most likely a game. As excited I would be to see Microsoft announce a new mobile entertainment device before Apple announcing their next iPod line up, I am sceptical. However, my patent findings show a new connector design from Microsoft. The connector looks different from what the Zune HD has and was filed in May 2010, indicating that it is a recent design. Here’s a comparison of the new connector and the Zune HD connector:
The size of the male and female ports leads me to believe that the connector is meant for mobile device. Maybe we will see a new mobile entertainment device from Microsoft called Xbox Fusion with three exclusive game titles called Vault, Genesis and Sentient?
There is a lot of talk about the fact that Microsoft is not talking a lot about Zune these days. Rumors that Microsoft will be phasing out the brand started a while back and off late have been strengthened by more rumors that Zune will be merged with Xbox LIVE and Windows Live. Microsoft has, on more than one occasion, said that Windows Phone 7 is their new Zune. The company has not introduced a new iteration to the Zune HD even though ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft was internally working on a Zune HD2.
Going through some patent documents, I came across a design patent for what looks like Microsoft’s competitor to the iPod Nano:
Unfortunately, I don’t think we will be seeing another Zune player.
Last week, we had told you about the impending Zune HD 4.5 firmware update and the wait was definitely not that long as Microsoft has released the Zune HD 4.5 Firmware to users.
Firmware 4.5 for Zune HD adds a new application called Smart DJ, which is somewhat similar to the iPod Genius feature. he update will provide expanded MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile support which includes Xvid and AVI codec support as well.
To update to Zune HD 4.5 Firmware, connect your Zune device to the Zune software and go to Settings -> Device -> Player Update. If your device is connected you can check for software updates and upgrade to the latest firmware.
Watch a video of the new features which are available in Microsoft Zune HD Firmware 4.5.
Today, Microsoft has officially confirmed the existence of Zune HD with 64Gb storage capacity. It was just yesterday we had reported that Microsoft will soon be announcing a 64Gb version of Zune HD. Microsoft has set the release date of the media player to April 12. Along with the announcement of Zune HD 64Gb, Microsoft also reduced the price of 16Gb and 32Gb Zune HD by 20 USD$.
Yesterday Microsoft had also announced that they will soon be releasing a new firmware update for Zune HD. The new firmware update brings with it native XviD codec support, Smart DJ application and few other features. The price of Zune HD 64Gb edition will be 349.99 USD$. The competitor of Zune HD 64Gb – iPod Touch 64Gb – costs 399.99 USD$.
Engadget reports that a new firmware update for Zune HD will be out soon. The new firmware update will be numbered v4.5. The update will provide expanded MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile support which includes Xvid and AVI codec support as well. There is also a new application called Smart DJ. The Smart DJ application is Microsoft’s alternative to iPod Genius feature. The Smart DJ application will let users create an instant playlist mix whenever they want. If the user has a Zune Pass subscription, music from Zune Marketplace will also be added to your playlist.
The press release from Microsoft also stated that users can browse and stream music from Zune Marketplace directly to their TV using the Zune HD A/V dock. When connected via Wi-Fi, it can be used to stream content from Zune’s marketplace and thus it becomes an alternative to popular apps like Pandora or Slacker Radio on the iTouch platform. What this firmware update does not bring is DivX codec support. Microsoft also did not comment about Mac support for Zune HD. There was no word about the international launch of Zune HD as well. It does not look like either of these things will happen in the near future.
It is also believed that Microsoft will soon be launching a 64Gb version of Zune HD.
Looks like Microsoft hasn’t given up on Zune HD just yet. CNET is reporting that the next firmware update to Microsoft’s iPod challenger will bring XviD codec support to the media player. According to the article, DivX support might not be coming.
The Zune HD is definitely one of the better alternatives to the iPod and if it weren’t for Microsoft’s decision to sell it in the US only, chances are, it might give the iPod some competition. The firmware is also set to bring Smart DJ to the media player. Smart DJ is a Zune 4.0 PC software feature that automatically plays songs similar to the one you choose. The feature on Zune HD would mean that one can stream Zune Pass content and media between devices on the same network.
The firmware update is expected around May. iPod’s lack of format support has always been a bone of contention, since XviD is a widely used format for videos, Microsoft’s decision will be welcomed by enthusiasts as it makes it easier to enjoy videos on the Zune HD’s 3.3″ OLED screen.
All you Microsoft Zune fans, who have been waiting to purchase a Zune HD, we have some good news for you. You can buy a 32GB Zune HD at Frys.com for $240 ($50 discount) and a 16GB Zune HD for $180 ($40 discount).
Zune HD Features
Zune HD 32 GB: Holds up to 10 hours of high definition video, or 48 hours of standard definition video, or 8,000 songs, or 25,000 pictures.
Zune HD 16 GB: Holds up to 5 hours of high definition video, or 22 hours of standard definition video, or 4,000 songs, or 12,000 pictures.
Built-in HD Radio receiver
OLED 3.3 inch screen with 480×272 resolution and 16:9 display
HD video output (requires HDTV and Zune HD & AV Dock, all sold separately)
Microsoft has released the much awaited 16GB and 32GB Zune HD which features a 3.3 inch touchscreen, HD Radio, HD video out and Wi-fi support.
Zune HD will allow users to store and play back 720p HD videos files and also stream them to a HDTV using the Zune HD AV dock.
Zune HD will be available in black, red, green and blue colors with the 16GB version costing $219.99 and the 32GB version selling for $289.99.
In addition to that Microsoft has also released Zune 4.0 a PC suite for managing Zune devices. The new software contains features such as recommendation features among other things. The software is free to download for PCs.
We will put up more information about the device and specifications on our gadgets blog.
Microsoft today will release the new Zune HD in response to the new Apple iPod Nano and iPod Touch launched by Apple on September 9th during their Rock and Roll event. Along with the new Zune HD, Microsoft is also launching the Zune 4.0 software which brings many new features like Aero Snap, Jump Lists, etcetera and of course the software is fully compatible with soon to be released Windows 7. The most interesting thing to be noted here is that Microsoft has decided to market Zune HD as a gaming device now and not only as a Personal Media Player. This move from Microsoft is clearly influenced by Apple’s strategy of marketing iPod Touch as a gaming device. Coming to the Zune 4.0 software, it features a Smart DJ application which is somewhat similar to Apple iTunes Genius feature. Basically all it does is create a mix of music from the same genre of your music collection. Microsoft also released a v3.2 software update for the older Zune’s, but even then the launch of Zune HD effectively marks the end of life of all other Zune devices currently in the market.
Even though Microsoft has targeted Zune as a gaming device, as of now there are no games available for it. Microsoft said that they will release few 3D games for free for the Zune HD in the coming months, which Microsoft has created with close collaboration with third parties. They also said that in future users will be able to buy games for Zune HD via the Marketplace.
Yes! Its official now. Zune HD will be launched next month and it will battle for the market share with iPod Touch 3rd Generation which will also be released around that time. The Zune HD features a OLED 3.3inch touchscreen and the processing power is provided by the Nvidia Tegra Processor. The Personal Media Player also features an inbuilt HDMI port so that you can directly connect it to your TV and also has the ‘standard’ features including Wi-Fi, a Web Browser and an HD Radio Tuner.
Zune HD will be launched in 16GB and 32GB models and will cost 219.99$ and 289.99$ respectively. The Zune HD definitely looks stellar and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the 3rd Generation iPod Touch. The biggest advantage which the iPod Touch enjoys over the Zune HD is the App Store which has more than 55,000 applications and games available for the iPod Touch.