The features are pretty well known by this point:
- Built-in HD Radio receiver
- HD video output capabilities (720p)
- OLED touch screen, allowing you to flip through music, movies and other content
- Internet browser optimized for multi-touch
There’s also the addition of an advisor AI called Smart DJ, which will make suggestions for others songs or artists you might enjoy. Imagine if Pandora and Apple’s “Genius” had a love child.
Simply enter an artist’s name and it will build a playlist around that artist – pulling suggestions not only from your own music, but from the 6 million tracks in the Zune marketplace. (If you’re not a Zune Pass subscriber, you can still see the songs it suggests, in case you’d like to buy them a la carte.)
You’re unlikely to find any reliable reviews of the Zune HD at this time, since reporters (including Technotainment) were unable to use the units before today. Like the rest of the general public, we had to wait for the Zune 4.0 software to roll out.
That’s fine – but the rollout wasn’t exactly smooth. (See screenshot below).
I hate to fault Microsoft for something as common as software launch quirks, but when your competition is Apple, it underscores the differences. Steve Jobs doesn’t put out a new version of iTunes until it has been tested three ways from Sunday. (He also puts it out in the more convenient middle of the day- rather than midnight Pacific time.)
Microsoft’s stumble is an annoyance the early adopters are going to remember – and that’s exactly the crowd the company needs to win over if it wants to expand its market share.
Launch issues aside, the Zune has, in my limited time with it, proved to be a pretty nifty device. Apple still has a notable advantage with the App store – even though Microsoft plans to launch more of its own apps in the coming months. But for music, video and casual web surfing, snap judgment so far is this is a good alternative that could find a foothold.
(Update: The software issue is still plaguing users, some 14 hours after launch.Slow downloads. Initial input for the Smart DJ, etc. For shame, Microsoft...)