Earlier this year rumors claimed the Zune was on the verge of extinction. But today Microsoft announced plans to completely overhaul their portable digital media player as the Zune HD. The new line of Zunes will hit shelves this fall. In a move that’s been a long time coming, the Zune will finally be integrated with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 hardware, and the Zune HD will be linked into the Xbox Live Video Marketplace so users can download movies and TV shows.
Zune HD will essentially become Microsoft’s answer to the iPod touch, with a few bonus perks. The new Zune sports “HD” in its name for two reasons: One, it will tap into HD radio stations, and two, it will carry a high-definition output that will allow users to play videos by connecting the Zune to an HD television set. The Zune HD will also sport a Wi-Fi connection for instant streaming and access to the Zune Music Store, as well as an Internet browser. Still, the real coup here is making the Zune HD accessible with the Xbox Marketplace, which boasts 17 million subscribers worldwide.
Visually, the Zune HD nearly doubles the screen size (16:9 widescreen format display) of its previous model, and it comes in a familiar silver case. Overall, Microsoft has gone through great lengths to resuscitate the Zune after sales for the media player dipped 54 percent last year. Microsoft insisted that despite the fact that iPod had broken away from the pack, the company was still “deeply committed” to their product, hoping to rebrand the Zune as a “general purpose” device. By adding video, HD radio and a Web browser, it looks like Microsoft has achieved their goal. The question now is, Will it lure enough people to compete with the iPod?