updated 09:10 pm EST, Tue March 9, 2010
Zune HD sequel may use phone OS roots
Microsoft's decision to drop the Zune HD from its XNA development kit may actually be hints at plans for its sequel, leaks indicated on Tuesday. Multiple sources toldZDNet that the follow-up touchscreen player will be "similar to an iPod touch," indicating a more general-purpose role than the media-heavy Zune HD. With Windows Phone 7 as the only known mobile OS supported by XNA 4.0, the shift implies that Microsoft may use a variant of its phone OS to drive the next Zune.
A decision of the sort would potentially alienate developers that have been writing software for the Zune as it would render the Zune HD a "dead end" with no real market. However, Zune HD app development was extremely limited and was never expected to have a broad app catalog. Microsoft may be embracing a more Apple-like strategy that is willing to abandon a legacy platform in favor of encouraging apps that work on both its smartphone OS as well as its media players.
Although its plans have been delayed past original expectations, Microsoft has long indicated that it wanted to treat Zune features as services rather than parts of a self-contained ecosystem. Using Windows Phone 7's tile- and menu-based system would allow this on a Zune HD refresh as it could still provide full media player features but a much wider app platform and Internet experience with only minor changes to accommodate the different interface priorities.
The new device could be released as soon as the end of the year, which is characteristic of Microsoft's Zune schedule. Typically, it has had at least a minor refresh of its players between September and November.