Believe it or not, those Zune rumors that circulated around gadget sites recently were spot on. Microsoft has finally announced the Zune HD, a handheld media player that looks for all the world like Redmond's answer to the iPod touch.
The new Zune will debut in the United States this fall, and it will feature a 3.3" touch-screen OLED display with a 480x272 resolution—a slightly smaller, lower-resolution display than what's on Apple's current-gen device. Microsoft will also include an HD radio tuner, Wi-Fi connectivity (through which you'll be able to buy music online), and a full-screen web browser with "tap to zoom technology, built-in accelerometer, and [a] touchscreen QWERTY keyboard."
Zune touch Zune HD will launch with a companion Zune service on the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, where users will be able to download content from an "exciting catalog" of TV shows and movies (all presumably compatible with the new device). Microsoft even plans to offer a Zune HD docking station that can output "supported" 720p content to a TV via HDMI.
What about games? Microsoft skirts the subject entirely in its press release—a surprising omission, considering Apple touts the iPod touch as the "funnest iPod ever" and offers a wealth of 2D and 3D games on the App Store.
We wouldn't necessarily rule out gaming capabilities, however. In February, an analyst claimed Microsoft was developing a cell phone based on Nvidia's Tegra system-on-a-chip, which just happens to support 720p output via HDMI. If the Zune HD turns out to have Tegra inside, then it should also benefit from the SoC's integrated GeForce core. Of course, that doesn't mean Microsoft would necessarily woo game developers to the platform. (Thanks to TR readers Usacomp2k3 and Adi for the tip.)