updated 08:30 am EDT, Fri May 15, 2009
Zune HD Xbox Focus
Microsoft's Zune HD will have a much stronger emphasis on games and could be the start of a new, unified online store for the company if a detailed rumor is accurate. Referring to tips reportedly corroborated by multiple sources and dating between August of last year and January this year, TeamXbox says the device will make the Xbox platform an important focus and will let users play certain Xbox Live Arcade games both on an Xbox 360 and on the Zune HD. It should also have a variant of the New Xbox Experience (NXE) interface given to Xbox 360s late last year, but will use touch for its input.
Appropriate to the integration, the handheld would represent one of the first instances of Microsoft's publicly stated plans to merge Xbox and Zune services and would soften the distinctions between the Xbox Live and Zune Marketplaces as well as potentially have a connection with the company's "Sky" services, which are now known to include My Phone as well as Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The Zune HD could buy games, music and videos and is implied as having app support, though the sources stress that the hardware isn't a phone and wouldn't have a smartphone-level interface. It's unclear if the handheld would be based on Windows Mobile.
Microsoft's Live services would also play a role and would bring its mapping (including traffic), news and video features to the new Zune, giving it general-purpose functionality closer to the iPod touch. A high-resolution WVGA (800x480) screen would be a cornerstone of the design. The rumor also floats the possibility of the device incorporating WiMAX networking, though it doesn't address the concerns over device cost and the lack of wide coverage for the long-range wireless service.
As a result of the integration, Microsoft is claimed to be pitching the Zune HD as a convergence device and targeting Apple, Google, Nintendo and Sony all at once, hoping to beat these with a device that performs many of their features similarly well or better.
The Zune HD is reportedly on track for September for at least an unveiling, if not its actual launch.