Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zune HD A Taste of What's To Come For Windows Mobile

Over at On Apple, we posted a "don't worry" opinion on what Zune HD means for iPod Touch developments and Apple fans.

However, it's not like we're saying Zune HD isn't a great hardware.  We just don't think it's the right comparison with the iPod Touch given Microsoft's own admission that Zune HD doesn't have a full-blown mobile OS and we've yet to see what else it's capable of doing, storage capacity (thought we think it'll be between 16-32GB), and how long the battery life will carry an user through the day.

We firmly believe that Zune HD, though a potentially formidable video player to be sure, is merely a taste for mobile warriors of what's to come from Redmond.  If you visit Gizmodo's first impression with the pictures and video, you'll see that Microsoft's risky decision to integrate Zune with Windows Mobile or even Microsoft's zPhone (Zune phone) later on may work out better than anyone believe (let's not kid ourselves.  A Zune phone is forthcoming).  In the past, Onxo wasn't sure that it was that integrating Zune and Windows Mobile was a move Microsoft need to make nor one that was likely to work out well.

Whatever Microsoft's answer to the current mobile offerings in the market (Android, Blackberries, iPhone, and Pre which has yet to be released), it's obvious that a lot of work was put into this.  There's no doubt that Zune HD has elevated mobile video entertainment to another level with the OLED screen.

What remains to be seen is what Windows Mobile 7 can hold up its end of the bargain in this two-prong OS.

What I'm curious about is the roadmap that Microsoft has laid out for mobile computing, mobile entertainment, and, lastly, Windows or the Xbox.

First the mobile realm.  The iPhone has garnered  a lot of attention with the surprising move into casual gaming, I'm still a year or two away from really believing that Apple's mobile platform has the staying power in gaming against entrenched veterans.  So the iPhone gaming may not be Microsoft's concern.  Rather, its foes Microsoft is more familiar with:  Nintendo and Sony.  It's a good bet that mobile gaming devices from Nintendo and Sony will make leaps with their next upgrades.  We've not heard anything yet regarding Zune HD's gaming capability and we might not until Windows Mobile 7 is out.

It's safe to assume that all three video gaming giants will have gaming stores for wireless downloads like Apple's iTunes app store.  Microsoft will have an advantage in that its OS is a mobile platform whereas Nintendo and Sony's platforms are largely gaming in nature.  We'll have to see if Microsoft does go with a dedicated gaming device at the end of the day, like the DS or PSP, or modeled Zune/WM's gaming potential after Apple's strategy.

If Microsoft does decide to stress Windows Mobile's mobile computing capabilities and relegate the integrated Zune capability into the role of a sidekick, then it's natural who it's competitors will be.  In this case, we won't know until Microsoft has phones and mobile devices with WM 7 installed in the market.  WM 7 maybe going up against Android 2, iPhone 3.0, WebOS 1.0, fall 2009 Blackberries if it comes out early 2010.  Closer to the middle of 2010, the comparisons will be totally different at that time.  At that time, Zune's media capabilities will be at a disadvantage.  Also, keep in mind that Apple is pretty good at upgrading the iPhone OS every two or three months with new features.

I've also wondered if Microsoft will aligned a Zune gaming device (likely powered by Windows Mobile) closer with Windows or the Xbox.  Or neither.  Microsoft can make Zune Marketplace open to all of its proprietary platforms and provide users the choice of deciding if they want to play their music over the PC or Xbox.

A bit confused?  Yeah, me too.  Most folks have left the Zune for dead but months later, Microsoft surprises us with the Zune HD (did I mentioned that in the case of Zune HD, the "HD" is for the HD radio and has nothing to do with video?).  It is proof that Microsoft has finally decided on a strategy for its mobile platforms.  For Zune and WM fans, and mobile users in general, the mobile computing, and maybe gaming market is going to get really exciting in 2010.

Note:  In Microsoft's press release, there were a lot of missing details.  Maybe I'm an optimist but I hope Microsoft purposely left out information for competitive reasons and it is saving it all for a final announcement a la a special Zune event in the fall.  Love to hear more about its current functions (unannounced ones, I hope), storage, battery life, and pricing.

Source:  On Apple

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