MIcrosoft says Zune goes international this Autumn, but the new HD player will only be available in the U.S. What is going on and does anyone care?
Zune's much maligned existence has not been helped, since you have to go to America to laugh at it. If you're a global company, it shows weakness to launch a product in only one territory while your rivals are going global. So, we expected big things when rumours of the new Zune were leaked recently.
However, the product launch is being confused, as Microsoft mixes hardware and software across services. Basically, Xbox 360 users around in "select international markets" (exactly where is to be confirmed) will see a new Zune logo on their consoles in the Autumn. The Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace will feature a Zune logo in the first slot of the interface, "exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new consumers for the first time" according to the press release.
So, a brand people know little about, is being marketed only to console gamers who have been used to watching movies using their console, and they can't get the hardware anyway. It doesn't really make sense, especially as the hardware will only be available in the U.S. at launch. We asked if it was coming to Australia and were told by Microsoft, the service is going international, but the hardware is U.S. only, begging the question, why bother?
A shame as, actually, the Zune HD has an interesting spec:
- The bright OLED touch screen interface allows users to flip through music, movies and other content with ease, and the 16:9 widescreen format display (480x272 resolution, the same as Sony's five-year old PSP).
- The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback supported HD video files from the device through a HDMI docking station (sold separately) direct to an HD TV in 720p.
- Zune HD will include a full-screen Internet browser optimized for multitouch functionality.
- Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for instant streaming to the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store. This is something the iPhone can't do officially (yet), but comes bottom of the list of features!
Zune HD, cute but will you care?
Also, the Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio
receiver so users can listen to
higher-quality sound than traditional radio on the go. Since this technology is hardly registering in the U.S., we can't see it making it big anywhere else. In fact, this newly added feature is so niche, it'd be hard to spot at three paces, and, as the Zune itself does not display HD video, this seems like a ploy to help justify the HD tag.
With no word on price (remembering to add the cost of the HDTV dock), storage or download pricing, don't hold your breath for an import Zune, but keep an eye out for the service.