Impressive as the iPod Touch is to us fans, it is even more impressive to Apple’s (AAPL) dearest enemies. Microsoft have struggled to market the somewhat lackluster Zune which is otherwise, a great PMP with solid roots. The next time around, however, the Redmond giant will be sure to mark its territory in the handheld market with the introduction of the ZuneHD, a device that says “me too” but in an impressively threatening voice.
The new portable, codenamed ‘xYz’, is rumoured to be a convergence device between Microsoft’s Xbox, Zune and Sky marketplaces. With that in mind and what must be an increasingly growing mortification at being overshadowed by the trendy computing underdog [Apple], the software giant are sure to keep the internet world on its toes until release. The upcoming device is not likely a phone – Microsoft will not tread on their Windows Mobile customer base with a handheld of their own (not now at least).
The ZuneHD will sport a WVGA OLED touchscreen and “hardware features not found on any handheld on the market”. Yawn. Like the donkey from Orwell’s Animal Farm, I have am prompted to roll my eyes with a smug, “no one has ever seen a dead donkey”. My 29 year-old experience tells me that impressive on paper and in rumours does not an impressively performing device make. As far back as I can remember, nearly every portable player on the market has in some way or another bested Apple’s iPod and every phone is just waaaaay better than the iPhone. Way better, evar.
The same is true at least now of the ZuneHD. But while there is hype surrounding it, one cannot forget that Apple will bring out new hardware too. Our own tried and true non-phone is rumoured to pack increasingly iPhone-like features: OLED, HD playback capability, radio, a camera, background apps, mo’ processor and ram. The simple fact is that until a product launches, survives long enough to develop a user base and then generate its own hype, it has not succeeded. Apple’s iPod Touch has done that and we will see if the ZuneHD can clinch the same boast. One thing is certain though: Microsoft have to make the ZuneHD available outside of Texas. There are many users around the world (read: non-USA) who would like to try and/or buy the device but cannot as it is stuck inside the largest closed market in the world. Of course, it would be poignant of Microsoft to finally bring the Zune to OSX and Linux, but that is probably as likely as Steve Balmer to adopt a contemplative attitude.