Microsoft confirms Zune HD to launch in the U.S. this fall (with image)

Microsoft’s press release verbatim:

REDMOND, Wash. – May 26, 2009 – Microsoft Corp. today announced the evolution of Zune, the company’s end-to-end music and entertainment service, to a new platform and new markets. Zune will extend its video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17 million international Xbox LIVE subscribers. In addition, Microsoft confirmed the next generation of the Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the U.S. this fall, Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet browser.

“The Zune music player is an integral part of the overall Zune experience, and we’re proud to be growing and extending our offering beyond the device,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV, Video and Music Business Group. “Delivering on Microsoft’s connected entertainment vision, this news marks a turning point for Zune as it brings cross-platform experiences and premium video content to living rooms around the world.”

Zune Service Expands to New Platform

Zune will be a premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalog of TV and film to the platform. Zune will occupy the first slot within the Xbox user interface in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new consumers for the first time. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next week, attendees will see firsthand how Zune integrates into Xbox LIVE to create a game-changing entertainment experience.

Introducing Zune HD

Zune HD is the next iteration of the Zune device family and brings a new level of listening and viewing experiences to the portable media player category.

· Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio receiver so users can listen to higher-quality sound than traditional radio on the go. Users also will have access to the additional song and artist data broadcast by HD Radio stations as well as additional channels from their favorite stations multicasting in HD. If you don’t like the song playing on your station’s HD channel, switch to its HD2 or HD3 channels for additional programming.

· The bright OLED touch screen interface allows users to flip through music, movies and other content with ease, and the 16:9 widescreen format display (480×272 resolution) offers a premium viewing experience on the go.

· The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback supported HD video files from the device through a premium high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) audiovisual docking station (sold separately) direct to an HD TV in 720p.*

· Zune HD will include a full-screen Internet browser optimized for multitouch functionality.

· Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for instant streaming to the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store.

About Zune

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand that provides an integrated digital entertainment experience. The Zune platform includes a line of portable digital media players, elegant software, the Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service, and the Zune Social online music community, created to help people discover more music. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division and supports the company’s software-based services vision to help drive innovation in the digital entertainment space.

* Supported 720p HD video files play on the device, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272 – not HD resolution. Zune HD and AV Dock, and an HDTV (all sold separately) are required to view video at HD resolution.

HD Radio™ and the HD Radio logo are proprietary trademarks of iBiquity Digital Corp.

Source: Microsoft Corporation

MacDailyNews Take: According to CNET, Zune HD “is based on Windows CE and will use a version of Internet Explorer customized for its touch screen.” Quick, somebody dial 911, we just heard a train wreck!

Now, Zune HD is not the “first portable media player that combines” anything, since it is vapor. You do not get to claim “first” with a press release and a photo of something that looks so “1990s Sony,” that Sony ought to sue. If it actually does ship “in the U.S. this fall,” it’ll be the first player to combine a specific bunch of elements into an overly-bevelled package under a severely damaged brand name which will continue failing to sell in meaningful numbers. In any other company’s hands on this (or any other) planet, Zune would have been discontinued long ago, if it’d ever been given the go ahead for development and launch in the first place.

Do not discount the possibility that this is yet another attempt, however weak it may be, by Microsoft to “freeze the market” ahead of Apple’s expected announcements regarding iPhone, iPod touch, and as-yet-unannounced products. Regardless, Microsoft is morbidly delusional either way.

“Any product that is essentially a copy of something else… there’s something inherently less interesting about them. Because the companies that make them don’t lead, they follow.” – Paul Thurrott, March 19, 2009

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Graeme” and “DD” for the heads up.]

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