The next generation of Microsoft's Zune music player, due in the fall, will have a touch screen, Web browser and an HD Radio receiver.
The new device, called the Zune HD, will also carry a high-definition HDMI video output that will let people play files through a docking station on HD TVs at 720p resolution. And the Zune's screen - 16:9 wide-format ratio with a resolution of 480 by 272 pixels - will use organic light-emitting diodes, a technology that helps improve battery life and image quality.
The OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen technology is also likely incorporated in the upcoming iPhone update this summer, as well as the Samsung i7500 with Google Android, according to PC Magazine, which also speculates an upgrade to similar technology from the iPod Touch.Microsoft has managed only single-digit market share for the Zune since its 2006 debut, but the company is continuing to invest in the device as an alternative to the dominant portable music player, Apple Inc.'s iPod. Microsoft says the new Zune will be the first with a receiver for HD Radio, which lets radio stations transmit extra channels alongside their regular broadcasts.
Microsoft also plans to announce a link between the Zune music service and the Xbox video game console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week.
The iPod Touch (right) is the Zune HD's real target.
Sounds like some cool features, but with Apple's iPod/iPhone line sucking up about 86 percent of the personal media device market, it's probably also too late to the game to build much buzz
And speaking of games, it remains to be seen how the Zune can compare as a gaming platform, something the Touch has been marketed for and excels at.
There also the question of operationg platform and browsing.
The iPhone and iPod Touch system, based on Apple's OS X, has become a proven commodity for the device and given rise to a cottage industry of thousands of apps. And it incorporates the built-in Safari browser. Speculation for the Zune HD is that it will support a new version of Windows CE, but the question remains on browser choice. A new version of Windows Mobile or something entirely different?
We'll find out next week.
One benefit for current Zune owners, if the folks at Zunscene.com are right, is the promise of some fairly hefty discounts - about $70 off - to upgrade to the new device.