If you're an "anything but iPod" person, Microsoft has served up a killer MP3 player, according to reviews around the Web. However, if you're happy with the Apple ecosystem, most critics say you've got little reason to switch to the Zune HD.
The device is attractive. The features are solid. The new operating system, which came out this morning, seems sound. But it's not revolutionary, say most articles. And in this competitive market, critics say that's what Microsoft needed.
There's a lot to like about the Zune HD--from its slim design to its unique music discovery features. Physically, the Zune HD got a complete makeover. Measuring 4 by 2 by 0.3-inches thick, it falls somewhere between the last year's hard- and flash-drive models in size. A 3.3-inch multi-touch OLED display dominates the device's face with a single, slim hardware home button lying below it. Because the display doesn't require a backlight, it uses less battery power.... Microsoft is definitely packing the punches in the battle for best touch portable media player and this is only the hardware. (More at The Washington Post)
Microsoft's ZuneHD, set to go on sale Tuesday, will not feature an open application store like its competitor the iPod Touch. It will come with some unique features, though, like an HD radio tuner, and with software that has been well-received by users. Those capabilities will determine whether the ZuneHD sells well -- and whether Microsoft decides to keep selling its own music player, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. (More at Computer World)
The new Zune OS
So what's new in version 4.0? Well, there's a new look, ... an updated store stocked with new HD movies, rentals, and TV shows, a Genius-like Smart DJ feature that can leverage your Zune Pass subscription for an unlimited on-demand music-streaming experience that makes Pandora look like child's play. But perhaps the biggest part of the new Zune 4.0 experience is that Microsoft is giving Zune Pass music subscribers a way to stream music over the Web by logging into their Zune.net accounts on any Mac or PC. (More at CNET.)
The bigger strategy
It's part of Microsoft's new cross-platform media strategy, which focuses on the four screens that consumers watch: TV, portable devices, PCs and the Internet. Earlier versions of the three-year-old Zune line synched only with a PC, but the new version also works with Xbox and high definition televisions, and will eventually be able to link up with Windows Mobile phones in the coming months. (More at CNN Money)
The battle with Apple
"Microsoft needs a decisive win across the field of the media player battle and has little hope of achieving one. Not in the next few years," says PC World. "Zune, however, clearly loses on ecosystem, at which Apple excels. If you want access to the most content and applications, the best accessories, there is simply no comparison between Zune and iPod."
Volkswagenâ€™s E-Up! An electric car for the people?
Itâ€™s a far cry from a $100,000 Tesla, but a new electric car concept from Volkswagen has people charged up. The diminutive E-Up! is just 125.6-inches long â€“ a Mini Cooper is 20 inches longer â€“ and isnâ€™t going to haul four kids to soccer practice. And its 11.3 second 0-60 time wonâ€™t win any drag races. But that's not the point. If all goes as planned, by 2013, E-Up! will be a mass-produced all-electric car from a major automaker, accessible to the average person.