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Technology CompaniesAppleZune HD is expected this fall. Is Zune Tablet edition coming next?

Zune HD is expected this fall. Is Zune Tablet edition coming next?

Microsoft is finally announcing their response to the iPod Touch: The Zune HD.

The device is being positioned as “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.”

And from the Zune HD website: The Zune HD supports “multi-touch navigation” and has a “3.3 inch screen and vivid 16:9 OLED display (480×272 resolution).” (Note: The iPod Touch has a 3.5″ display with 480×320 resolution, 163 pixels per inch.)

Of course, there’s XBox integration, which makes complete sense for Microsoft. There’s no doubt that this device is an “mp3” player to Microsoft–just look at its URL for the Zune HD site: zune.net/en-us/mp3players/zunehd.

Sorry Microsoft, but if this is the way you are trying to position the Zune HD, you still haven’t caught on. The iPod Touch is much more.

Microsoft is being tight lipped about the price and launch date, but word is that the Zune HD will appear in the “fall.” Some are suggesting that the Zune HD is being pre-announced this week to stay ahead of the E3 conference next week. Could be. However, there’s much bigger news the following days and Microsoft may be pre-announcing the Zune HD to stay ahead of any breaking iPhone news at Apples WWDC. Makes sense.

Now, I am happy to see Microsoft going in the right direction in a couple of areas. For instance, the device sports a multi-touch enabled browser and the device includes an accelerometer. The latter is a nice touch for games, if nothing else.

The Zune HD also includes a marketplace. There’s no word on exactly the opportunity here, but again considering the timing of this announcement I’m going to guess that Microsoft is considering games here. Why else announce the product ahead of E3?

However, is the marketplace going to be preserved for licensed digital content, such as music, tv shows, and video? I wonder. What makes me curious is that I don’t see “Games” listed anywhere on the home screen. For an iPod Touch compete device and one that would attach to an XBox iTunes style, you’d think that a “Games” heading would be front and center. Maybe it’s to be revealed later.

This brings me to one more thing: What about reading? Admittedly, the Zune HD has an even smaller display that the iPod Touch, but you’d think there might be a place for “Books” somewhere on the home screen too. For instance, shouldn’t there be a Kindle Reader ready for the fall launch?

Again, maybe this is something that Microsoft is considering down the road. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Now stepping into the eReader direction, you’ve got to wonder that if the iPod Touch is too small of a screen, what about the even smaller Zune HD? Will Microsoft be releasing its own Zune Tablet someday? I hope so. I’m thinking of something Haiku like. It would make a most excellent reader, browser, etc.

Forget the full OS, it wouldn’t need it. A trimmed up Windows CE with multi-touch and handwriting recognition is adequate. Hopefully we don’t have to wait two more years for this kind of device.

Loren Heiny (1961 - 2010) was a software developer and author of several computer language textbooks. He graduated from Arizona State University in computer science. His first love was robotics.

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