Go ahead and scrap your plans to attend the Zune HD's funeral, the device isn't dead after all. We think it isn't, anyway. Actually, we don't know what's going on with the Zune HD, and it seems neither does Microsoft. News spread of the Zune HD's demise when an official support page went live saying Microsoft planned to discontinue the hardware, though it would still offer support. The message? If you're interested in the Zune, go buy a Windows Phone 7 device instead. Not even a day later, Microsoft has pulled the website and is backtracking on its obituary.
Early on Monday, some users noticed that all references to the Zune HD were scrubbed from Microsoft’s website. It seemed an inevitable decision considering Microsoft’s new focus on smartphones, but the Zune isn’t quite dead yet. Noting the error, Redmond restored the ill-fated PMP to its obscure position.
Things have been pretty quiet over a Microsoft regarding any upcoming Zune refreshes, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from bustling with activity. And why not, given that Apple just recently launched its newest iPod touch with a built-in camera and FaceTime support.
Rumors of an upcoming Zune player began earlier this month when ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley said that one of her sources "who has been a solid tipster on Microsoft-consumerish things in the past" told her that the Redmond giant plans to release at least one more Zune HD media player. The tipster claimed it would probably debut in 2011 and might come equipped with an ARM processor, along with a bunch of UI changes from the Windows Phone 7 team.
More recently, Microsoft put up a job posting looking for a Hardware Engineer to help with "next generation of portable entertainment and communication devices." The job is for a senior mechanical engineer in Microsoft's Portable Entertainment Group, the same team that designed last year's Zune HD.
Whether or not there's anything to these rumors, or whether Microsoft simply plans to let the Zune line fade away and instead focus on porting Zune features into its Windows Phone 7 devices remains to be seen.
Thanks to an inadvertent leak on Microsoft's Zune site, we had a pretty good idea that a 64GB model was coming, we just didn't when or for how much. With the cat out of the bag, Microsoft has gone ahead and issued a press release answering those questions, and more.
"We're excited to share that Zune fans will be able to purchase a new 64GB capacity of the popular Zune HD device for $349.99 starting April 12th through ZuneOriginals.com," Microsoft said. "By increasing the capacity to 64GB, users will be able to take up to 16,000 songs, or 20 hours of high definition video from Zune Marketplace, or 25,000 pictures on the go!"
The upcoming release isn't just good news for Zune fans interested in higher capacities, but Zune fans in general. That's because Microsoft has dropped the prices of the 16GB and 32GB models by $20 each to $200 (16GB) and $270 (32GB).
With Easter a little less than a week away, it looks like Microsoft is prepping a new Zune HD player just in time for the holiday, even if you weren't supposed to know about it.
On the Zune's homepage, Microsoft's web monkeys have added a listing for a Zune HD 64. Click on the link, however, and you won't get very far - it brings up a "page not found" error rather than a new product page for a Zune HD sporting twice the amount of storage as the current flagship model.
If we had to guess, we'd say the link will go live fairly soon, though don't expect any hardware changes beyond the bump in capacity. That's not a bad thing, as the Zune HD comes comprised of an Nvidia Tegra chipset, 3.3-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, and a pretty slick UI.
Since there hasn't been an official announcement yet, there's obviously no word on pricing. As a point of reference, however, the 32GB Zune HD runs $240.
Microsoft is no stranger to lawsuits, but the most recent case to cross the legal desk in Redmond has me wondering if they even bother to check their mail anymore. A new patent infringement case has been filed in a Wisconsin U.S. District Court which alleges that the Zune's "Buy from FM" service violates IP owned by Dr Edward Yavitz. The good doctor claims that even though he contacted Microsoft several times regarding the infringement, his plea's for a peaceful resolution landed of def ears. "I got no reply whatsoever" Yavitz told InternetNews.com.
Patent trolling is considered somewhat of a nuisance in the tech industry, but you have to feel for the guy when you consider that he filed the patent in question years before there was even an iPod. "They are definitely taking notice of it now" Yavitz said. It's likely that Microsoft's change in heart has something to do with Windows Phone 7 Series, which is more Zune than Windows Mobile. Assuming that Dr Yavitz has a case here, this lawsuit could get mighty expensive if Microsoft's new mobile platform actually takes off.
Microsoft officials declined to comment on the suit, or its merits, but when is that ever not the case?
Microsoft seems to be pushing ahead with software updates to the Zune HD. In an upcoming spring firmware release, the player will get support for XviD encoded videos and streaming playlists. If you have a hard drive full of XviD files (that you may or may not have gotten via BitTorrent) this is certainly good news, as you won’t have to convert them whenever you want to view them on the Zune HD. Support for the similar, but proprietary, DivX codec is unlikely.
The streaming playlists will be an extension of the Smart DJ offering already in the Zune desktop software. This will allow the device to offer playlist suggestions much like the iTunes Genius feature. Smart DJ will pack a little extra surprise, though. When the player is in range of Wi-Fi, Smart DJ can stream songs right from the Zune Marketplace without the need for local storage. Does this make the Zune HD a more appealing device in your opinion?
When the Zune HD launched everyone was bothered by the lack of apps. It seemed like the perfect platform for it. Microsoft did eventually grace us with a few games and miscellaneous goodies. But as we all know, you can’t have an application platform without at least one Twitter client. Well, today the Zune HD got just that, a Twitter app.
The app can be found on the Marketplace right this second. It is first and foremost, a very attractive Twitter client. As it turns out, it’s also inexplicably laggy. The Zune HD packs the impressive Nvidia Tegra chip, but this app somehow obfuscates the power of the hardware. Just scrolling through and refreshing tweets seems to cause random crashes. Many are finding that touches aren’t being correctly interpreted either.
The truly confusing thing here is that the app actually censors tweets. As one astute reader tipped Engadget, any profanity is automatically replaced with asterisks. This is a move right out of Apple's App Store playbook, but worse because it is doing live censoring of content. Yes, the app is free, but keep in mind this device has a web browser capable of displaying all manner of online obscenity. Hopefully a software update will fix these problems. Hit the comments with any thoughts you have on this.
Need a new portable media player? We're giving away a Zune HD 16GB (Black), courtesy of Nvidia. This kick-ass video and music player is powered by Nvidia's Tegra APX 2600 system-on-a-chip, a sports a vibrant 3.3" OLED screen. This Zune also comes with a custom engraving on the back. But enough of the technical babble. We're going to make it super easy for you to enter the contest, so hit the jump to get the full scoop on getting your name in the random drawing. In fact, you may already be entered!
The contest ends tonight, so read on for the full rules!
All the games are available for free but Zune HD users will have to sit through a small ad before getting into the thick of the action. The game’s are designed to leverage much more than just the latest firmware update, namely the Zune HD’s accelerometer, multi-touch OLED screen and the NVIDIA Tegra chip.