While NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 chip is powering almost every new Android tablet set to launch in the next few months, the Tegra platform has actually been around for a few years. The first big name device to ship with a first generation Tegra chip? The Microsoft Zune HD… the little portable media player that couldn’t — but only because nobody really noticed how cool it was.
I got a chance to review the Zune HD about a year and a half ago, and I was quite impressed with its graphics performance, HD video playback capabilities, sleek user interface, slim design, and long battery life. Unfortunately while the Zune HD made an excellent little media player, it had a hard time competing against Apple’s popular iPod touch, which could do almost everything the Zune could… plus run a few hundred thousand apps. The number of third party apps developed for the Zune HD measured in the dozens, at most.
So it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Microsoft is may be ceasing development of the Zune media player. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft will instead shift its focus to Windows Phone 7, which uses Zune software for media playback, and the Zune Desktop software for synchronizing audio and video between PCs and mobile devices.
Ultimately it makes sense for Microsoft to put its eggs in the much more versatile Windows Phone basket while keeping the Zune music store and subscription-based music streaming service alive as a subset of Windows Phone 7. But it also means that Microsoft doesn’t really have a good alternative to the iPod touch or similar Android-based handhelds from companies such as Archos or Samsung. There aren’t currently any non-phone devices running Windows Phone 7, and the operating system’s name suggests that Microsoft doesn’t really plan to license the OS for non-phones.
Personally I’d love to see a next-generation Zune running WP7 or Windows Embedded Compact 7 or another light weight operating system that can run the thousands of apps available for Windows Phone 7. The iPod touch is an excellent device for those who want a bit of the iOS experience but don’t want to pay a monthly smartphone fee for the experience. It would be nice if there was a similar option for Microsoft mobile OS fans.