Can Microsoft’s latest Zune, the Zune HD, take down the king? It depends on which king you’re talking about. As it stands, the iPod Touch is a whole different beast because of the App Store. What Microsoft has done with the Zune HD is nothing short of spectacular, but who is it really competing with? My BlackBerry can play videos and show me pictures taken on a recent trip. The HTC Hero and/or myTouch 3G can stream music from the likes of last.fm or Slacker. I can download MP3s from my iPhone. Everything the Zune HD does, I’ve been able to do with a slew of different devices that I already own.
You see, the features that the Zune team has been touting don’t interest me much. I don’t really care to see an artist’s bio, their pictures or anything of that nature. Sure, the modified IE browser is nice and works great, but I want to know how deeply integrated the Zune HD is going to be with other Microsoft devices like the Xbox 360. I don’t need to fork over extra cash for an HD dock to stream 720p content onto my TV. I can already do that through my Xbox 360, FiOS and whatever content is stored on my NAS. Tell me what the plans are for the next six months. Tell me when the damn thing is actually going to launch.
With that being said, please enjoy the short video that I took of the Zune HD in action. One thing I failed to capture was the on-screen keyboard. MS has taken a different twist, which may or may not be unique to the Zune HD, but it’s different than most other on-screen keyboards that I’ve seen. Unlike the iPhone (or any other device that lacks a physical keyboard) when you’re tapping away at the Zune HD’s on-screen keyboard; characters don’t pop up by themselves. Tap a character and its neighboring chums to the right and left will create a small arch with the center character popping up just a little more than the rest. It seemed to work well, but the firmware isn’t final so I’m unable to fully comment.
The only other misstep I noticed was with the home button and Internet browser. When you’re navigating through every other feature of the Zune HD, a single tap of the home button brings you back to the main page, but when tapping the home button from within the browser it chorks hard. It takes two or three taps to get back to the home screen. But, again, the Zune HD I took a look at was definitely not final in any way. Also, the Wi-Fi at our meeting location was spotty.
Things are looking good for Microsoft and the Zune team with the HD, but I’m still waiting to hear what they have in store for the device because everything else is old hat.