Microsoft Zune HD: Can it defeat Apple IPod touch ??

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Zune HD review:
The Zune HD is much slimmer than the current Zune 120 because it will use flash memory rather than a hard drive. This means the expected storage capacity will be 16 GB with a possible more expense model at 32 GB or discount option at 8 GB. The price range will depend on storage capacity, however there is some expectation that the Zune HD Price will be $250 for the base model.

Zune HD

The outer casing is a matte finished aluminum to prevent fingerprints, it can come in black or silver with a hint of gold. Each Zune HD supports a full WiFi web browser which is a new feature for the Zune brand. Zune HD reviews will have to note the specific features that Zune apart from the iPod touch such as the HD radio reception and HD video output at 720p resolution.

Question:
With these features, will Microsoft Zune HD have a product comparable to the Apple iPod Touch ? are these cool features and comparable operation enough for Microsoft to take a bite of Apple and gain market share??

Analysis:
Quite frankly, NO…

While the Zune appears to function as well as or better then an iPod touch, there are items beyond the product itself that make iPods so popular.  Looking at the history of the iPod, it is iTunes that has provided most of the growth for the product.  Being a part of the CE industry during the rise of the iPod, I have used players that have sounded better, functioned better and provided more pleasure then iPods themselves.  However, it you look at the ease of use of the iPod with iTunes as the means to load content, it has a benefit to any other player.

One down side to the Zune HD is that it will not play games or run apps (at least in the first release), this is something that is making the iPod touch and iPhone so popular.  Consumers are not really buying it cause it sounds or looks good, the fact that you use it for everything is one of the most appealing factors.

Over the years Apple iTunes and iPod have become the known name for portable players and downloading music.  These Apple brands are used like Band Aid and Kleenex to refer to downloading and playback.  Because of the popularity, there is an entire industry based on the iPod.  Everything that you could ever want from a new blingy cover to a dock so that you can listen on a big system are available, there are even TVs with docs so that video can be watched at home.  AV product manufacturers have spent years developing products to support iPod and it will be a long time before they start developing for the Zune.  Additionally, consumers have spent years building libraries in iTunes, and I bet that the Zune will not sync or play that content…

Microsoft has a counter measure for iTunes with ZunePass, this is a monthly fee service that allows for downloading of content to the Zune.  While this is something that is needed, Microsoft would have been better to stay out of that game and partner with an established service such as Rhapsody.  At this point in the game Rhapsody continues to grow as the alternative to iTunes, and while I am sure that purchased music from Rhapsody can be used on the Zune, having the subscription content would be better.

The bottom line is that while the Zune may have some advantages in performance, it lacks the support that the iPod has.  The lower cost for the Zune HD may steer new users in Microsoft direction, it will not bring old iPod users over.  However, only time will tell, as stranger things in Consumer Electronics have happened.

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