Microsoft Positioning Zune HD as The Portable Media Player to Beat

Submitted by lalit on May 16, 2009 - 9:54pm.

Microsoft’s Zune effort has been a failure when compared to iPod, however, Microsoft is preparing to again challenge Apple with their rumored Zune HD portable media player. Latest rumors suggest that the Zune HD will be designed to take on Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and iPod touch. It will be a bridge between Microsoft’s Zune and Xbox platforms.

Hardware-wise it will have a large WVGA touchscreen, which will also be the main input device like the iPod touch. According to rumors, Zune HD will have hardware features not found on any handheld device on the market today, but software will be the biggest feature of the Zune HD.

Though all the information above sounds very interesting, what would Microsoft really need in its magical device to truly compete with iPod touch. Apple’s iPod touch and iPhone are basically blank slates, it is the iPhone OS that makes them really special. Microsoft will need a very good operating system to actually make Zune HD magical. Presently, Microsoft has three options Zune Software, Windows Mobile OS and Xbox software, and none of them will actually work.

Problem with Zune software is, it isn’t advanced enough to actually work on a smart device. Apple didn’t use iPod OS on iPod touch or iPhone, they designed iPhone OS using Mac OS X as the base and Cocoa Touch as the interface layer. This gave iPhone OS the depth required to design various applications for it. As for Windows Mobile OS, even Microsoft has openly said that it lacked time to properly polish the UI of the upcoming OS 6.5 and Windows Mobile 7 will not released before first half of 2010. Microsoft might sell an unpolished product to its partners, but it isn’t foolish enough to actually base their most important product on Windows Mobile 6.5.

So the last option for Microsoft is to either use Xbox software or design new software from ground up. Xbox software was never designed to work on handheld devices. Microsoft will have to make significant changes to the software to make it work on Zune HD. This leaves Microsoft with only option of designing Zune HD software from ground up. We believe that Zune HD software will borrow heavily from present Zune and Xbox software. Microsoft will also have to give developers a good SDK for application development for the devices, as without third party applications the device will be dead before arrival.