What's the Future of Zune Hardware?
"With Windows Phone 7 finally out, what does the future hold for Microsoft's line of Zune media players? I suspect that very few people outside of Redmond are asking themselves that question right now-and that anybody who does care assumes that the Zune HD will turn out to be the final stand-alone Zune. (Like all the other Zunes before it, the HD suffered from a malady I like to think of as "Gee, this is quite a good product, but it's in a class of devices that people lost interest in a year ago" syndrome.) Me, I'm hoping for a new Zune soon-maybe several of them. Hold on, hear me out, I'm serious."
I've been muttering about this one for a while: if Microsoft doesn't come out with a media player that's basically a chassis 1 Windows Phone 7 without the phone, they're missing a vital opportunity. If they want to build an ecosystem, they need to both offers consumers connected and non-connected models, and they need to offer developers the most populated platform they can - everything possible capable of running their software. The Zune HD is a great device, but people want apps and enhanced functionality beyond just the basics, and the Zune HD can't deliver that right now (no, the 30 apps so far on the Zune HD really don't count - the damn thing still can't view YouTube videos).
One catch here is that the baseline Windows Phone 7 spec has a lot more ooomph than the Zune HD - a 1 Ghz processor and bigger, higher resolution screen won't come cheap - so if Microsoft can only offer this type of product at the $499 price point, well, that's going to fail...