Current thoughts about the upcoming Zune HD

You’ve probably heard of the Zune HD by now, if you’ve been keeping up with gadget new or Zune news.

I’m pretty interested in the Zune HD, even I’m probably not going to purchase it right off the bat. I’ve used the two previous generation Zunes, and I actually liked them. The first generation wasn’t exactly the most smoothest top-notch experience, but it was a pretty nice player, albeit it’s rather clunky form. I got the black one, and I loved the neat blue double shot effect, and the screen felt nice and wide, compared to other PMPs like iPods at the time. The software however was not so great, and I did have trouble at first syncing the Zune but it was ok. The 2nd generation was my brother’s and it was much improved and even smoother. The software was much better, and in some ways better than Windows Media Player. It was thin and sleek, and I’m surprised that there wasn’t a bigger jump in sales of the new Zunes (typical iPod users).

So the Zune HD, based on the internet buzz, will definitely take off if well marketed. It’s use of an OLED screen, Tegra chip (pretty good for games and content), HD Radio, HDMI, accelerometer, 720p HD output, and probably more pretty much trumps the current iPod Touch in my opinion.

So here’s a list of things I hope to see in the Zune HD as well as its accessories:

  1. More storage capacities beyond 16 and 32GB – How about 64 or 120GB? I’ve heard many people liking the Zune HD, but will probably not buy one because of the storage limitations. Personally, I never use that much storage (not even 4GB) and if I needed to, I would just swap what stuff was on my Zune with other stuff in my library. The so-called “conveniency” of having your whole media library on your device is just dumb in my opinion, because you couldn’t possibly use it all at once, and it’s not that difficult to connect your Zune to the library and view something else. But bigger capacity is always welcomed. There’s a rumor that Microsoft will at least have 64GB version later this year or sometime.
  2. Application Store – I want an official Zune application store. From what I know, there won’t be one initially, but there will be one through an upgrade later. Here’s what I think the application store should be like on the Zune: many good applications available (like official ones from major companies), little regulation as needed to allow applications into the Marketplace, centralized payment system, way to share applications with a friend for a small free trial period, and a nice simple layout to find/view applications on the Marketplace. I personally think that will need to be some regulation as to the submission of applications. I wouldn’t want to download malware onto my Zune, or have a ‘naughty’ application in the hands of a kid. Stuff like that. But I hope not to see blocking of apps like Pandora or Google, for competitive reasons and such. I also would like to see apps to be shared, like the way you can share music & pictures through WiFi. You think this app would be good for your friend, so you send it to them to try out for at least a day. Neat idea.
  3. Built-in Camera – This would definitely one-up the iPod Touch if it was in the Zune HD first. It should be preferably at least 3.0 MP, flash available, and good controls on the screen, and a camera button on the side.
  4. Hardware add-on for playing games – I like the idea of Xbox Live content to be available on the Zune, and for more deeper games, there could be a little controller add-on to the bottom of the device with simple Xbox controls for users who want to play Xbox games. Hopefully there will be many games ported to the Zune to make this work.
  5. Excellent mobile browser – Many people have complained of IE Mobile’s shortcomings (though the 6.5 version has been good), and hopefully the one in the Zune HD is at least equal if not better than the ease of use as the one on the iPod Touch. According to a CNET reviewer who had a good glimpse, it’s pretty good.
  6. Flash & Silverlight support – It’s not included, but it wouldn’t hurt through an update. Unfortunately, a lot of websites use Flash, like YouTube and Pandora Radio, so a little Flash support would help. Silverlight would be great, especially if more websites took advantage of it, in comparison to Flash. Some people have cited that Flash can bog down a mobile device, but others have argued that the Tegra chip is well capable of running Flash content.
  7. Bluetooth Support – I’d love to plug in some Bluetooth headphones with wonderful A2DP support. It’s like a major feature for the best audio PMPs. Bluetooth could also be better for wireless syncing, rather than WiFi.
  8. Non-touch Zune player – I know this sounds counter-productive to current trends, but there’s still a market for a nice decent non-touch PMP. There are many fans that love the current 2nd generation Zune PMP right now, and they like the fact that’s it doesn’t rely on touch technology. I’m guessing that they don’t like using their fingers/stylus to interact with their PMP, don’t want to pay for something expensive when it could be cheaper, and like tactile controls. I really felt that the 2nd generation Zune did a great job of combining a non-touch screen player with a touch-like interface when you consider the swiping you can do to get around the interface. Anyway, a nice solid non-touch PMP would still be nice with a hardware refresh, like the way Apple still sells iPod Classics.
  9. Nike+ Support? – I’m not sure if Nike+ for iPod software is Apple made or Nike made, but I think it’s probably most Nike-made. Anyway, I think it would be neat if there could be something like that for the Zune. If not a Nike deal, maybe one with Adidas or Puma. Some people think Nike+ is overrated, but I think it’s neat, and I’d want Zune support too.

As for the Zune software & Marketplace & Social:

  1. Drop the love/hate rating system – Many people have found it very ineffective. If you added music to your library, chances are, you probably like it. They should go back with the 5-star rating system. The 5-star rating system lets users have a better degree of control on how much they like a certain thing. I may like both Song A and Song B from my favorite artist, but I’d like to indicate that I like Song A more, by giving it a higher rating like 5 stars, instead of labeling both as ‘I like’. It just makes sense!
  2. Less memory intensive – The Zune software client has been really memory intensive on my system, every time I launch it. I can even hear my hard drive buzzing. I would really appreciate an update, that would make it less memory intensive.
  3. More neat “Now Playing” screen splashes – I love this feature of the Zune. It’s really nice graphical goodness. When you play a song on the Zune software client, if it’s a very popular artist, a neat background splash launches, with big tinted photos, and big block words expressing the artist rolling through. I would really MORE artists could get the special Now Playing splashes. Here’s an example of one:
  4. Better messaging options on Zune Social – It would be nice if we had the option of IMing other members on Zune Social, if the person you are corresponding to allows it. I’m not asking to launch up the Messenger client, but built-in IM functionality, like the way Facebook does their IM bar. Anyway, they could at least upgrade the character limit when sending messages from 230 characters to 500.
  5. Marketplace had more video & games content – There could still be more music content of course, but I would love to see more music videos, movies, TV shows, and games coming out. Games support seemed rather rusty, since there were only two official games available for the Zune (with many more from XNA studios), so there should be some more. There’s already a good amount of TV shows, but there could be more, and we definitely could use movies!
  6. Zune Pass for video content – I’d say the ability to watch/stream as many movies or TV shows or music videos as you want, for a monthly price of probably $19.99 or cheaper. You’d also be able to keep one free movie or TV episode a month. Any monthly fee that is affordable for the amount of content available. I really think nice and convenient subscription services, will help lower down piracy if studios made it more affordable and worthwhile in paying.
  7. Firmware update for previous generation Zunes – I’m not sure if the firmware running on the Zune HD can work with non-touch controls in the previous Zunes, but it’d be nice if the latest Zune HD firmware was available to previous generation Zunes, or at least some type of a firmware update. Even if the Zune HD’s firmware won’t work on the current Zunes out there, I’d like to see an update for Unicode support, EQ, and any other simple software goodies available on the Zune HD.
  8. More codec/format support – PNG images would be nice, FLAC, and others.

Overall, I really hope to see Zune become a more solid product line, and I really hope it encourages 3rd party support to really come along in making the next Zune more ubiquitous, and really worthwhile in investing. Anything I should add?

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6 thoughts on “Current thoughts about the upcoming Zune HD

  1. Better messaging options on Zune Social – Um… maybe on the Zune, but there is no need for it on the computer, where the user can easily have Messenger. Plus, since Messenger accounts are linked to Zune Cards (and Xbox Live Cards, they are the same thing) it isn\’t that difficult to add friends you have on your Messenger list to your Zune Social. Zune Pass for video content – Unlikely to happen as it competes with NetFlix too much, and there is a member of the Netflix board in Microsoft\’s board. It would be more likely to see a continued Netflix deal to the Zune. Of course, it could still happen the way you want it, but I have my doubts. Firmware update for previous generation Zunes – Yes and no. Microsoft will keep updating, unlike Apple, which almost never does for anything but its touchables. But stuff like Unicode is too high work for too little payoff, and EQ is hardware or a battery killer. More codec/format support – Dream on with FLAC. Microsoft has WMA Lossless. You can convert between the two without loosing any data. Still could happen, but I doubt this more then a Zune Pass Video.

  2. Didn\’t hear about the Zune HD before this. Definitely going to take a look. I think my friend Marissa might be interested.

  3. I won a Zune HD at trade show and was thrilled – till I went to the webstie to get a few apps – nothing fancy, a calendar, address book, etc!! nothing of the sort! I can play the piano on it and know that the weather is – but not what day it is…I am really hoping that they come up with some apps soon!!

  4. @no name: The main reason to own a Zune HD is not necessarily for apps, but it\’s media playback. After all, the Zune bill itseft mostly as the best portable media player on the market, not the best app device.

  5. G\’day, Texas-Tech\’ Michael: I\’m wondering if you can answer a question for me and if not, direct me to where I might find the answer.Q: How/where does one go to upload an IMAGE to the ZUNE GALLERY of Music ALBUM Covers? I have an image but WinLiveNetwork won\’t give me the option to upload it from my PC(only option is through ZUNE). Please advise. It\’s a great band(albeit an "acquired taste") and the album cover\’s kinda nifty, too. Thanks, Michael. Enjoy the day! ~Fiddle-Chick Charlie

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