Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD

Zune HD

Prince McLean, AppleInsider

Just when you thought Microsoft had given up on the Zune as a product and had retreated to referring to it as a nebulous cloud of conceptual features, the company comes out with a new device supporting a mobile-optimized OLED screen, a wildly powerful yet super efficient new multi-core Tegra graphics processor and support for high definition radio. The problem is that none of those things are actually true.

From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD
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With the Zune HD, Microsoft has dusted off its failed brand and applied it to a new device aimed at the iPod touch. To distinguish it, the company has added several new features. Unfortunately, as was the case with previous models, what Microsoft has added is all sizzle and no steak. Here’s why.

Myth 1: OLED is a great display technology for mobile devices

First off, Microsoft gave the Zune HD a new OLED display. OLED is an interesting new technology that uses a layer of electroluminescent organic compounds, rather than the inorganic materials used in traditional LCDs, to produce an image. OLED panels don’t require a backlight, so they can render true blacks and provide a higher contrast ratio.

However, today’s OLED panels are much dimmer than standard issue LCDs: a typical maximum output of 200cd/m^2 compared to around 4-500 for mid-range LCDs. OLED also performs considerably worse in bright light because OLED is 100% emissive rather than being partially transflective.

A good quality LCD actually uses ambient light to make its image brighter and more vibrant; OLED does not. This means when you take it outside, the OLED’s screen is completely washed out by sunlight. Unless you only plan to use your mobile device in your dark basement, you don’t want one of today’s OLED screens, particularly on a mobile media player that you might expect to use on the go in various environments.

A shot in the dark

Microsoft knows this, which is why it only demonstrates the Zune HD in dark rooms. Engadget filmed a full demonstration, including the device’s incapacity to pull up a web page, in a suspiciously dark room without even noting this. There are actually candles visibly flickering in the video behind the device.

Microsoft sets up its demos in the dark because the Zune HD looks terrible outside, where its contrast ratio advantage observed in ideal conditions completely falls apart. Engadget’s other pictures of an OLED-using Sony Walkman show that without the candle-lit smoke and mirrors, OLED blacks are not black at all.

There are other problems with OLED. They don’t last long, because the electroluminescence layer degrades far more rapidly than regular LCDs. Component colors within OLED also die at different times, with the blue pixels fading first. This results in a rapid shift of the color balance as the device ages. Additionally, the original color reproduction gamut of brand new OLED displays is already worse than standard LCD, resulting in less natural-looking colors from the start that only get worse.

More power to ya

And despite the power savings attributed to OLED’s backlight-free design, OLEDs still use more power than LCD displays most of the time because the OLED technology consumes power based on how bright the image it is displaying is. Essentially, OLED is the backlight.

Sony and Microsoft try to compensate by giving their OLED devices a dark, mostly black user interface. Unless you will exclusively be using your Zune HD to watch gothic movies in the dark, the screen will be gobbling up more power than an LCD. This is particularly the case if you want to browse the web, which involves a lot of white space. Showing a white background, OLED consumes as much as 300% of the power of an LCD. Any colors that rely upon those those fragile blue pixels are particularly power inefficient.

And again, because OLED doesn’t use any ambient light to brighten its picture, as LCD does, 100% of the image comes from emitted light output, which requires a bigger drain on the battery. For this reason, reviewers of other OLED products have expressed puzzlement about why the supposedly efficient OLED technology didn’t translate into better battery life in actual use, as did the Register when looking at a Samsung s8000 Jet:

“Considering it’s got an energy-saving OLED screen, we were disappointed with the battery life of the Jet. Perhaps the powerful processor puts some extra drain on the juice, but the promised 180 minutes of talk time and 250 hours’ standby translated into a barely a day of moderate use.”

If you’re wondering why Apple, which sells tens of millions of mobile devices per year and has a component appetite that literally sways RAM markets, didn’t beat Microsoft, a company that barely sold a couple million Zunes in two years, to the OLED trough, it’s not because Microsoft is on the cutting edge, but because Microsoft is desperately looking for a marketable feature, whether or not that feature makes any sense for consumers.

Myth 2: NVIDIA’s Tegra processor leapfrogs existing mobile processors

Now that you’re no longer in the dark on the oversold OLED, what about the Tegra processor used by the Zune HD: is it really the miracle chip that it is billed to be, both achieving spectacularly unprecedented performance and industry-leading power efficiency? Has Apple’s expertise in developing ARM CPUs and in running its own CPU fab plant been outmatched by Microsoft’s first foray into mobile devices with a functional web browser?

The Tegra is built by NVIDIA, leaving Zune fans to suggest that it delivers industry leading, desktop-gaming type graphics that far exceed the capabilities of industry-standard mobile graphics. However, Tegra isn’t a scaled down version of NVIDIA’s PC graphics GPUs. Instead, it’s based on technology NVIDIA acquired in its purchase of fabless chip designer PortalPlayer in 2007.

If PortalPlayer sounds familiar, it’s because Apple formerly used its system-on-a-chip parts to build MP3 players up through the 5G iPod and the original iPod nano. Apple accounted for 90% of PortalPlayer’s business when it dumped the company in 2006, reportedly because the company was arrogantly jerking Apple around. PortalPlayer was devastated and never recovered.

When NVIDIA acquired PortalPlayer for $357 million the next year, Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Craig Berger observed, “This deal comes as a surprise to us as we believe there are other semiconductor firms that offer more technology for less money,” and added that NVIDIA apparently “thinks it has a better chance of penetrating Apple iPod (video) products if it owns and integrates PortalPlayer’s technology.”

Apple, PA Semi, and the PowerVR deal

However, NVIDIA didn’t ever get back into the iPod market. Instead, Apple began sourcing SoCs from Samsung, bought its own fabless chip developer by acquiring PA Semi for just $278 million, and secured a secret design license for Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR SGX graphics cores.

So, while NVIDIA’s Tegra grew from the humble origins of the chip powering the video 5G iPod, the iPhone 3GS and the latest iPod touch models feature a mobile-optimized GPU core descending from the Sega DreamCast. While Imagination’s PowerVR GPU never made it into the desktop GPU market to rival the technology from ATI and NVIDIA, it has become the gold standard in mobile GPUs.

But the GPU is only half the story. Tegra uses a conventional ARM11 family CPU core (ARMv6), the same generation CPU core used by the original iPhone, the Zune, Nokia N95, and the HTC Hero. The Tegra’s CPU/GPU package also uses DDR1 memory, introducing significant real world RAM bandwidth limits no matter how powerful the embedded GPU core is rated to be in theoretical terms.

In contrast, the modern Cortex-A8 used in the iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre, Nokia N900, and Pandora game console represents the latest generation of ARM CPU cores. It also employs a DDR2 memory interface, erasing a serious performance bottleneck hobbling the Zune HD’s Tegra. It’s difficult to make fair and direct comparisons between different generations of technology, but NVIDIA’s own demonstrations of Tegra’s ARM11/integrated graphics show it achieving 35 fps in Quake III. The same software running on Pandora’s Coretex-A8 with SGX GPU core achieves 40-60 fps.


Tegra’s Core Problem

Tegra is also being hyped as providing “8 processing cores,” but this is nonsense as it simply counts logical blocks common to all embedded SoC parts as “cores.” The CPU in the Tegra is a single ARM11 core. Even if the Tegra did supply multiple CPU cores, the Windows CE kernel used by the Zune HD doesn’t support multi-core SMP so it couldn’t make any use of them.

Other mobile devices use multiple ARM processors for efficiency or cost savings, such as the original iPods which idled along using two low power ARM processors, or the Nintendo DS, which uses an ARM9 and ARM7 to handle different functions independently. However, there is nothing in the supposed “multiple cores” of the Tegra that offers anything comparable.

NVIDIA promotes Tegra as being “Ultra Low Power,” but its standard ARM11 CPU doesn’t deliver anything that isn’t available in other ARM designs, nor any special power savings over more powerful and modern processors like the Coretex-A8 in the iPhone 3GS and latest iPod touch.

Again, if you’re wondering why Microsoft was able to score the NVIDIA Tegra “before” Apple, it wasn’t due to any mobile industry clout or hardware experience on Microsoft’s end, but rather simply due to the fact that Apple has its own resources for designing and building advanced, state of the art mobile processors, and didn’t need to buy into the desperate hype NVIDIA is using to promote the runner up technology of Apple’s former SoC vendor.

Myth 3: Zune HD is mobile HD

Microsoft is promoting the Zune HD as supplying HD video and HD Radio, purposely conflating the use of “HD” as a meaningless marketing term. There are two issues here, the first being HD video display and output. The Zune HD’s OLED screen isn’t high definition in the sense of HDTV, of course. The screen itself is only 480×272, which is significantly less than the iPhone/iPod touch at 480×320. (That’s 130k vs 153k pixels; the iPod/iPhone displays 18% more pixels).

What Microsoft is promoting is the Zune HD’s capacity to output 720p HD video, at least when using its HDMI dock. The iPod touch is limited to 480p (DVD quality video) but can output this without a dock using Apple’s Component AV Cable. This is a software limitation, not a hardware limit somehow broken by the Tegra.

If you’re buying a mobile device primarily to act as a fixed movie player docked to your HDTV, the Zune HD offers a curious advantage in that regard. On the other hand, if you expect a mobile media player to deliver a mobile experience, the iPod touch delivers both a significantly better screen resolution and a better display technology, unless of course, you’re planning to always stay at home in a candle-lit basement.

However, most people looking at the Zune HD won’t be thinking of it as Microsoft’s smaller, second attempt at delivering the HD-DVD player. They’ll be excited about its HD Radio support, perhaps imagining that HD always means “high definition” relative to HDTV.

Myth 4: Zune HD delivers high definition radio

Unfortunately, HD Radio was given an intentionally misleading name. The HD in HD Radio officially doesn’t stand for anything anymore, but it was originally for “hybrid digital,” because HD Radio is all about replacing or augmenting analog radio with digital transmissions. It offers both an all-digital option as well as a hybrid digital option that enables radio broadcasters to augment their existing analog radio broadcasts with a digital version, something most opt to do so as not to alienate their existing analog radio listeners.

Like the move to digital TV, digital radio offers both the potential for better quality and the capacity to deliver more content within the same bandwidth. Unlike digital TV, the US government hasn’t decided to officially transition the nation to all digital radio broadcasts, as it did with TV in order to reclaim large portions of the old analog TV bandwidth for other more productive purposes (such as allowing more competition in mobile and data services).

Analog radio isn’t going away, so you won’t need any new converter box to tune your old radio into new digital broadcasts. New digital broadcasts will coexist with the old analog radio feeds, because radio wasn’t really wasting any huge amount of bandwidth to start with, as TV broadcasts were.

One competing standard for delivering digital radio is HD Radio, which isn’t an FCC open standard but rather a proprietary protocol sold by iBiquity. However, HD Radio remains the only digital radio transmission technology approved by the FCC for use in the US.

HD Radio uses a proprietary audio codec called HDC, which like Microsoft’s own WMA, is based on but not compatible with MPEG-4 standards. It should be no wonder why Microsoft is jumping on board to promote this proprietary standard. Major corporate broadcasters, including ClearChannel, support HD Radio because it allows them to deliver more content using subchannels squeezed into the existing radio spectrum.

Loopholes in the existing implementation of digital radio also enable big radio broadcasters to subvert existing regulations in order to avoid the controlling-interest caps established to prevent excessive concentration of media ownership, perpetuating the shift away from local radio broadcasts and toward generic piped-in feeds from media conglomerations like ClearChannel.

International reception weak

In contrast with the relatively recent rollout of digital radio in America, the European Union began implementing all-digital radio broadcasts back in 1999. Its existing DAB (digital audio broadcasting) standard is being improved to make use of the modern MPEG-4 HE-AAC, called DAB+. More recently, another broadcast standard has emerged in Europe with an even more misleading and unfortunate name than HD Radio: DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). Like HD Radio, it maintains backward compatibility with analog radios using a hybrid digital broadcast.

Like HD Radio, Europe’s DRM and DAB+ all have their own flaws helping to hold back widespread adoption of digital radio standards, including a lack of compatibility amongst each other. This is all relevant to the Zune HD because it effectively makes its main feature usable only to Americans. That’s also why Microsoft is restricting sales to the US; who outside the US would buy a media player with HD Radio features that aren’t even available outside of the US, and which isn’t compatible with the digital radio standards that are available locally?

Again, if you’re wondering why the iPod touch hasn’t jumped on the HD Radio bandwagon, it’s because it the proprietary new standard isn’t in use globally, isn’t in high demand, and barely covers 85% of the US from fewer than 2,000 radio stations. Of course, Apple’s iPod has never been oriented toward playing over the air radio feeds, but instead is designed to play your own music. Of course if you want to play Internet radio, there’s an app for that.

If you’re just looking for a regular radio, you don’t need to spend $300 for the Zune HD to get one. Portable FM radios are dirt cheap, and even mobile HD Radios are available starting at $50. Microsoft’s feature mix aimed at taking on the iPod touch is looking increasingly odd from every angle.

Myth 5: Zune HD games and software will wow you

From the hardware end, the Zune HD applies a lot of hype to drum up interest in its otherwise non-novel technology. But it’s the software side where the new device really fails to shine.

Despite being first and foremost a software platform vendor, Microsoft has a schizophrenic history in delivering a mobile software platform. The Windows CE foundation that the Zune HD is built upon is regarded as a joke throughout the industry, even by Microsoft’s own developers. Windows Mobile, which delivers an additional layer of software on top of the Windows CE kernel to support PDAs and smartphones, is also scoffed at. Given its dismal performance in the market over the last decade, that reputation is well earned.

The original Zune models promised to someday deliver handheld gaming potential through a beta “community technical preview” of Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio 3.0 tools. Instead, Microsoft simply yanked the plug on the effort, abandoning its support for existing Zune devices so it could focus on the Zune HD. This is Microsoft’s standard operating procedure in the mobile business. The same thing was also done with nearly each release of Windows Mobile. The newest release of Windows Mobile 6.5 won’t even work on lots expensive hardware sold in the last year.

Curiously, Apple has been painted by some pundits as being “developer-hostile” over a handful of application approval disputes that have occurred over the past year, despite maintaing a solid, profitable mobile platform that works across all iPhone and iPod touch models ever built. Imagine if Apple just kept churning out new models of iPhone, each running firmware incompatible with its existing hardware and developer’s third party apps.

Microsoft’s own software for Windows Mobile and the Zune HD is similarly bad. Its mobile version of Internet Explorer still doesn’t work despite having been on the market since 1996. What’s “new” in the release of the Zune HD is a different version of the mobile IE browser, based not upon the creaky IE 4 engine from 1997 (still delivered in today’s Windows Mobile devices), but a mobile version of IE 6, which dates back to 2001. That leaves the Zune HD’s browser nearly a decade behind the modern WebKit browsers used in the iPhone, Palm Pre, Android, and modern BlackBerry phones.

If Microsoft is doing that poorly in games and web browsers, what can one expect from the Zune software store, from media integration, and from the third party developers Microsoft has abandoned along with its past Zune initiatives? Are they going to come flooding back to welcome the few enthusiasts who keep returning to buy obsolete-at-arrival Zune hardware?

Despite the hype, the Zune HD appears to have failed before even hitting the market.

47 comments

1 elppa { 09.14.09 at 7:55 pm }

My first impressions of the Zune HD were pretty positive. The industrial design is to my eyes both distinctive and practical.

It’s certainly got its own “identity” and I feel the of the back is slightly more practical for use without a case than the polished mirror of the iPod touch. Microsoft have also made the screws an integral of the design, which is a different approach to trying to conceal them at every opportunity (which Ives prefers), but works quite well with the overall industrial look.

That said, if half of this article is accurate then it doesn’t look so good for the Zune.

I (as a European) was curious what HD Radio was and how it compared to DAB (which has recently been pushed fairly heavily by the BBC and others with mixed results).

One point from the article Dan – you say:
“Microsoft is doing that poorly in games and web browsers…”
Now you certainly cite example of where Microsoft has done poorly on the web browsing front, but give no gaming examples? Are MS using OpenGL or Direct X to accelerate games? Will they get any performance advantages out of the hardware from using their own technology (Direct X).

Back to the browser, the lack of demos in puzzling – if it was good they would be showing it off – surely? I have seen reviews gushing that it is as good as iPod touch, but I fail to see how without WebKit and the Nitro Javascript Engine. As the old saying goes, “Seeing is believing”…

[The idea was "if Microsoft is doing that poorly in games and web browsers" on the Zune, its CORE COMPETENCIES on the desktop, well then things aren't looking good for the things Microsoft does poorly at, such as UI, usability, stability. - Dan]

2 roebeet { 09.14.09 at 8:41 pm }

I agree with elppa’s comment of “seeing is believing”. Much of this article falls into the overall user experience (other than the possible lifespan with OLED, which is something we won’t notice for some time). The fact is that none of us have the device yet, so it’s hard to really compare things like the display, battery life and overall UI experience until the device is in the wild. We also don’t know how the MS App Store will pan out, in the upcoming months (granted, they have a lot of catching up to do in that department. But, also keep in mind that MS is primarily a software company, and have a long history with application development. It will be interesting to see what happens, there).

3 commun5 { 09.14.09 at 9:35 pm }

God, it’s so wonderful to read the truth! It made no sense that Apple would let itself get bypassed by Microsoft on a consumer device, yet all of the idiotic previews talked about how wonderful OLED and the HD playing function would be.

4 tinytim09 { 09.14.09 at 9:43 pm }

The ZuneHD a failure before launch! Funny seeing as how many a lot of people were incredibly disappointed by the subpar Apple iPod event and how the ZHD has gotten nothing but immense amounts of praise from everyone!
Dan, why can’t you just admit Microsoft has produced something that is GOOD?

Btw how does the iPhone/iPod touch do in direct sunlight? Horrible.
The engadget video in which the Zune didn’t connect to the Internet is because the device wasn’t even connected to wifi in the first place.
And OLED smokes LCD. :)

5 Ephilei { 09.14.09 at 10:03 pm }

If nothing else, the hardware is beautiful. It really took me aback. But the screws don’t do it for me.

6 AdamC { 09.14.09 at 10:19 pm }

At the end of the day it is the user experience that makes the market – not looks, pundits’ praises or technology.

The ones (bloggers) who try to keep a product alive are the ones who don’t want to be proved wrong.

7 sprockkets { 09.14.09 at 10:22 pm }

I think the Ipod’s LED backlight + LCD is currently better than AMOLED, though the color is supposed to be better.

Btw, while I would have wanted ogg/vorbis support from an ipod, what is there to really fix? The itouch got its bump, the nano was a little improved, and itunes 9 got some niffy features for audio organization.

I don’t believe they even mentioned the HD movies would have any form of multichannel audio, so what’s the use?

8 enzos { 09.14.09 at 10:46 pm }

> There are actually candles visibly flickering in the video behind the device <

You're a cheeky lad, Daniel! ;0)

9 JohnWatkins { 09.14.09 at 10:55 pm }

“If nothing else, the hardware is beautiful.” ?!
Ephilei, By any chance do you wear a digital watch and pocket protector?
I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

10 patriot { 09.14.09 at 11:39 pm }

All sounds pretty typical for Microsoft. How can a company screw things up so bad so consistently? A broken watch can get it right twice a day. Maybe Microsoft could learn something from a broken watch because they obviously can’t learn anything from Apple’s success.

FYI to all the commenters calling out Dan. The byline of this article is Prince. Dan wrote the excellent piece on the iTunes LP TuneKit Apple TV implications. Bravo on that.

11 helmsb { 09.15.09 at 12:35 am }

I think the ZuneHD is a fantastic device and a sign of a revitalization of Microsoft. Mark my word the iPhone and Touch will use OLED in the near future. Apple’s MO is to wait for other to mature a technology before they improve upon it. We need a big player like a Microsoft to work the kinks out of a technology like OLED.

12 whmlco { 09.15.09 at 2:59 am }

You realize, of course, that everyone will now be waiting for you to refute your own play-by-play commentary on how OLEDs suck the second Apple uses one in the next iPhone…

13 Dafydd Williams { 09.15.09 at 3:34 am }

Wow. The AI article has taken a pounding on comments. Apparently someone posted a link to a Zune fansite, and the members decided to step up.

14 counterproductive { 09.15.09 at 4:02 am }

@patriot,
Prince is Dan’s pen name for posts he makes for AI. As Dafydd said, you can see the same article over there, and it already has over 200 comments.

15 august { 09.15.09 at 4:06 am }

I’m quite amused by all the Zune HD supporters saying what a wonderful device it is. You guys sure do have a short memory. You were saying the exact same things about the original Zune.

16 counterproductive { 09.15.09 at 4:10 am }

“You realize, of course, that everyone will now be waiting for you to refute your own play-by-play commentary on how OLEDs suck the second Apple uses one in the next iPhone…”

@whmlco, you realize that Apple tends to use new technology when either, 1) Apple is good and ready to use it (having overcome the inherent limitations itself), or 2) when the technology is good and ready to be used in a useful way.

The point being made, is that MS, as usual, has jumped on a hyped-up new tech merely for the sake of having a selling point they can check off and tout over Apple’s products’ features. Poor way of designing a product, don’t you think?

Apple often holds off and does not include a bunch of rumored features, and may even delay a rumored product altogether. Apple tends to get its ducks in a row, build the foundations required to get the different parts working and useful and integrated into a whole user experience.

I have no doubt that Apple will use OLED if that is a new area that indeed has potential and theoretical advantages. But leave it to Apple to make the potential and theoretical advantages reality.

17 x23 { 09.15.09 at 6:01 am }

no mention of “marketplac” … ?

looks pretty sloppy to me… and of the production box design is any indicator it would appear the released device itself might also have the “e” chopped off.

18 Berend Schotanus { 09.15.09 at 6:48 am }

Not that I was worrying…
But now I am reassured that, given the complete irrelevance of the Zune, I can safely skip any Zune related article whatsoever.

19 tinytim09 { 09.15.09 at 8:58 am }

The fresh smell of hate in the morning…

20 martimus { 09.15.09 at 10:58 am }

Daniel, I kind of get a kick out of reading your articles and then perusing the comments… It seems like Micro$oft Fanbois love to troll your articles’ comment sections.

@TinyTim09

[quote] Btw how does the iPhone/iPod touch do in direct sunlight? Horrible.
The engadget video in which the Zune didn’t connect to the Internet is because the device wasn’t even connected to wifi in the first place.
And OLED smokes LCD. [/quote]

I don’t own an iPhone or an iPod Touch, but I have used my nephew’s iPod Touch, and I have demoed an iPhone on several occasions, and the displays on them (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS) have all been bright and crisp in full sunlight and daylight background plus overhead florescent lighting, so I am unsure of what you mean. I realize that both your and my comments are anecdotal, but do you think that people reading this don’t know. Even country bumpkins like me can go to Walmart to test drive one. As far as I understand it, Daniel’s point is a “mere” statement of fact about the capabilities of OLED, with points about the specific demonstration that Micro$oft allowed. Your comments with no specifics run counter to my anecdotal experience, and therefore become suspect. This, I think, demonstrates an expected level of trolling for a M$ Fanbois.

21 gus2000 { 09.15.09 at 11:17 am }

“…OLED smokes LCD.”

Yes, but what are YOU smoking?

22 tinytim09 { 09.15.09 at 11:17 am }

Yep label me the Microsoft fanboy. Do I care? No. All you mindless Apple drones eat up Daniel’s article constantly and there needs to be some type of representation from the opposing force.
And unless the iPhone has the brightness turned up full blast, it sucks in direct sunglight. I should know because I own one.

23 John E { 09.15.09 at 11:36 am }

Well Dan has certainly set his stake in the ground with a set of predictions about the new Zune that will be tested in the next few days in the real world.

- either the Zune OLED screen display is washed out to some degree by sunlight or not.

- the snapiness and battery life of the Zune will be comparable to the Touch or not.

- Zune web browsing will suck or not.

there is already no question that the “HD” hype is bullshit marketing tho. the bogus use of “high definition” label for what is simply digital radio is a scam by Clear Channel and the rest that MS has now embraced. whereas all TV stations now broadcast in digital – whether standard definition and high definition. being digital alone is not enough to be HD. exactly what would qualify as true HD radio is a good question. on the web, the measure of quality is the bit rate, but there is no consensus standard i know of. in ITunes, they run from 56 kbs to 128 kbs. any idea what the rate is from “HD radio”?

24 SteveS { 09.15.09 at 11:45 am }

Unfortunately, comments in these threads tend to be polar opposites. On one hand, you get the Apple sycophants that just eat up all of the heavily biased opinions from Dan. This of course is countered by the MS trolls that link in from Zune fans sites.

Let’s call it like it is. The Zune HD does look good. Of course, it should. It’s very derivative of the original iPhone design. The exception of course are the hard edges and exposed screws, etc. Some say this is more of an “industrial” design, while others say it’s just less polished than an Apple product. Perhaps both are true.

The Zune HD is obviously Microsoft’s answer to 2 year old Apple technology. Spin it however you like, but that’s what it is. Give MS credit for trying to put a spin on it by adding “features” such as OLED screens and “HD Radio”. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but I’d agree with Dan in the sense that they don’t amount to much and wouldn’t sway a would be iPod Touch owner to buy a Zune instead.

I would like to see more of how the Zune HD touch interface works, but I suspect they are still playing catch up to Apple. In the end, I believe the app store is Apple’s biggest weapon, coupled with the faster hardware, etc. which will make the Zune HD a non-starter. To challenge the leader, you need to have a significantly better product. I just don’t see that with the Zune at this point.

25 donarb { 09.15.09 at 12:29 pm }

If anybody wants to know the state of an app store for the Zune, here is an interview with the Zune marketing manager from today’s Seattle Times:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/technologybrierdudleysblog/2009867170_microsoft_launches_zune_clarif.html

Essentially, Microsoft will not be creating an app store for the Zune anytime soon. MS will either be writing apps themselves or contracting out to third parties.

26 stefn { 09.15.09 at 12:42 pm }

Gee. This article brought out all the Zunnies there are in world.

27 stefn { 09.15.09 at 12:46 pm }

Also. I’m guessing Steve Jobs really did want the Touch to announce video recording. It would have made this article unnecessary and the Zune yesterday’s if not last year’s news.

28 Cueil { 09.15.09 at 1:24 pm }

After watching the unboxing I’m now 100 percent sure you’re full of it… I’m sure that you did your research but your so biased that it’s painful to watch you try and play down a threat to your preferred platform. And anyone who thinks Microsoft wont open that app store when everything settles down are crazy they already have the development tools out to the public. I haven’t seen rabid anti-competitive articles like this since the PS3 price drop… please try and stow away some of the fanboy fever as it really makes you look like a jerk when from your other articles it’s obvious you’re normally well thought out.

29 tinytim09 { 09.15.09 at 2:11 pm }

SteveS

Thank you for being one of the few sensible people on this site! A whole bunch of Apple fantards on one site is like a bunch of dumbass PETA people at an award show.

30 kirbatron { 09.15.09 at 2:32 pm }

I dig the screws.

SteveS and tinytim09, I’m right there with you.

Everyone expects the next mobile device to do absolutely everything, including the functions of a can opener and kitchen sink. Its ridiculous. While functionality is a main marketing point and feature of many mobile devices, some things, like the Zune HD, I believe are meant to be for people with different tastes and styles. It’s like driving cars– Nobody is going to go with one brand, and one brand only. that deprives one of their soul. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d go with a Mac ANY day over anything running windows, but don’t get your panties all up in a wad because MS didn’t produce something you think should be ‘better’ than an ipod touch. Different strokes for different folks- plain and simple.

But just for the record, anyone who owns an iPhone AND an iPod touch, is an idiot. Apple may love you, but you’re just another customer spending a ridiculous amount of money on 2 pieces of metal and plastic that do the same thing, with the exception of the phone. Give the money to kids in Africa, they could use it more and better than the dust its collecting on your shelf.

31 ChuckO { 09.15.09 at 2:44 pm }

I’d have a lot more respect for the various Microsoft fans if they had anything close to the fact and tech based reasoning Dan uses in his articles. Ignoring the most important aspects of the arguments presented here (OLED power issues, OLED color shortcomings, OLED’s long term ability to function well, a processor that is not comparable to iPhone/iPod Touch) with something about how the iPhone screen works in the sun is pretty weak.

32 martimus { 09.15.09 at 2:45 pm }

@tinytim09

You really should try to show a little concern for facts to go with your criticism. Off topic comments and no logic train don’t auger well for anyone to take your comments seriously.

Your experience with a single device is “anecdotal” which implies no statistical significance as it is just a single data point, and it runs counter to my experience with four devices. My experience is anecdotal as well, but when we look at the broader market, tens of millions of people have voted in a statistically significant way that the iPhone/iPod Touch device platform is truly amazing.

It remains to be seen whether M$ drops a winner on their long suffering clients or a bomb on their unsuspecting victims. Given Micro$oft’s history (you can get a lot of very good analysis of it here ;) ) I predict a lot of disappointed victims of the soon to be “ZuneHD debacle.”

Drop in anytime, but make sure to wake up and smell the coffee :)!

33 galaxie { 09.15.09 at 2:55 pm }

What an Apple cirle jerk this is. Face it Zune HD is something new and exciting. Unlike Apple’s latest “refresh”….stale, oh so STALE

34 tundraboy { 09.15.09 at 3:06 pm }

@donarb. Thanks for the link. The following is quoted from the MS rep being interviewed:

“Down the road if there’s a way we can work with Windows Mobile or another group inside the company that’s building an app store and take advantage of that, that’s something we’ll look into.”

Just gets to the heart of what’s not working in the MS management system. Too many layers of management, too many divisions, too many artificial fiefdoms. Imagine if the iPhone and iPod Touch were developed by two separate divisions. No wonder Microsoft is the new GM.

35 From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD — RoughlyDrafted … | Technology News | The lastest news about technology { 09.15.09 at 6:51 pm }

[...] more from the original source: From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD — RoughlyDrafted …   Tags: explorer, improve-upon, market, release, the-market, the-near, the-release, windows, [...]

36 kuuba { 09.16.09 at 5:08 pm }

MS got simply a wrong department working on this Zune thingy. They should have left it for the guys who engineer some seriously good mice one can find on a market. They are the only ones in this house who seem to have an idea about what they are doing.

If they’d made a good solid mouse I could use as a cellphone and fill with some music, I’d even give it a try. In other words, unless it’s a mouse, I don’t trust Microsoft enough to give them my money.

[IIRC, Microsoft doesn't design mice, it simply puts its name on Logitech products. - Dan]

37 kuuba { 09.16.09 at 8:36 pm }

Though rebranding mice from Logitech would explain few things – like why both of them have so awful mouse software, it must be a bit more complicated than that. Some time ago I was spending quite some time to find a good and comfortable mouse for some drawing work which would at the same time work on not so good surface. I found one I liked from Microsoft but couldn’t find a comparable one (at least in the same price range) from Logitech. It wasn’t very fancy one, so it’s possible that Logitech actually makes better designed models in this product range (business and professionals) for Microsoft while keeping hardcore gamblers for himself. Other possibility would be that Microsoft contribution is a bit larger than putting the name on the product, while still using components from Logitech.

Coming back to Zune and using similar logic, that if one can’t make a good product by it’s own and wants to save its business, it should turn to the one who knows the area best – and that is Apple of course. It’s hard to imagine though, how and why Apple should start selling OEM iPods to Microsoft for rebranding…

38 FreeRange { 09.17.09 at 4:26 am }

At Galaxie –
“What an Apple cirle jerk this is. Face it Zune HD is something new and exciting. Unlike Apple’s latest “refresh”….stale, oh so STALE”.

Please quit playing with yourself its affecting your brain just like your mother said it would. The combination of updates to the ipod line, the added video feature to the nano, and the courage of apple to NOT release video in the touch until they get it perfect (the antithesis of MSFT philosophy), and then the great new features and functions of iTunes 9 continue to make Apple the hands down winner in this space.

39 Derek Currie { 09.17.09 at 4:36 pm }

‘HD’ Radio scam coverage: So well written Daniel. I may have a great punch, but you have great eloquence. **having a fan moment** Keep it up bud.
:-Derek

40 Derek Currie { 09.17.09 at 4:48 pm }

Me-the-tard wrote: “So well written Daniel.” *SCRATCH*

Please read: So well written Prince!!

41 JohnWatkins { 09.18.09 at 10:48 pm }

Actually I believe Microsoft does design mice, they just don’t engineer or manufacture them. I know two years ago their “hardware group” contained a good number of researchers and several industrial designers and engineers. It’s one thing they do fairly well although I must agree their software is rather sucky (at least on the mac.)

42 Derek Currie { 09.20.09 at 6:38 pm }

JohnWatkins sez: “although I must agree their software is rather sucky (at least on the mac.)”

Actually, ever since MS were caught red-handed stealing QuickTime code (circa 1997) they have had a devoted, specific Mac development team that has been remarkably good at creating MS Office using Apple GUI protocols. In many ways this has meant that Office for Mac has been BETTER than the version for Windows. So give them that credit.

Meanwhile, as a consistent MS user since 1988, I can verify that their software for PC (versus Mac) is indeed rather sucky. Currently I am a board member of the excellent local PC user’s group (versus Mac user group). Surprisingly I can verify that the favorite conversation within the group is how much Microsoft sucks. I very rarely hear any ‘Apple sucks’ comments. Amusing, eh?
(BTW: while I am within the group I remain neutral. Very challenging but good for my diplomacy skills).

43 Android hype vehicle set to crash in 2010 — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 01.02.10 at 6:45 pm }

[...] From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD Why Can’t Microsoft Develop Software for Zune HD? [...]

44 Microsoft Zune HD vs Apple iPod touch 3G, Feature Comparison | Obama Pacman { 01.17.10 at 11:49 am }

[...] The same software running on Pandora’s Coretex-A8 with SGX GPU core achieves 40-60 fps.” http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2009/09/14/from-oled-to-tegra-five-myths-of-the-zune-hd/ [...]

45 Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 4. It was over-hyped and under-delivered — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 02.03.10 at 5:11 pm }

[...] From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD [...]

46 Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 6. It needs HDMI for HD video output Daniel Eran Dilger Here’s segment five in my series taking on iPad myths: no the iPad isn’t just a Microsoft Tablet PC or Amazon Kindle copycat. Ten Myth of Apple’s iPad: 1. I { 02.08.10 at 1:11 am }

[...] From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD [...]

47 Top 5 Things That Should NOT Be in the Palm Pre 2 | AboutPalmPre { 02.08.10 at 4:44 pm }

[...] legibility in direct sunlight. For a mobile device, this is a must, and OLED is simply terrible in brightly lit environments. No matter how big Palm makes the screen on the Palm Pre 2, let’s hope that they avoid OLED [...]

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