So to put the exclamation point on Neville's recent article, the Zune HD is no longer in production. This was finally confirmed by both Windows Phone Radio hosts Matt Akers and Brian Seitz, plus the support page that was originally taken down is now back up on zune.net. Now we all can put to rest that question of "Are they or aren't they?" and say that going forward Zune will be available on Xbox 360, Windows PCs and Windows Phones...well also Bing Entertainment and Zune.net.
I, for one, am still not subscribing to this idea that my Windows Phone (as great as it is) could handle my musical needs. What's great about the Zune HD (and what most failed to understand) was that it handled media needs brilliantly. I could sync all kinds of playlists, TV shows, movies, podcasts, etc and know that when I go to listen or watch something, I don't have to worry about tile/toast notifications, incoming text messages or being disturbed by a call from Mom. The Zune HD was my media escape from the world.
Now, as Neville so awesomely points out, if you want any kind of Zune portable experience, you have to invest in a Windows Phone. Um, no. I don't think people should have to make a long term (2 years or so) investment just to get Zune's experiences. Also, Windows Phone can't handle the awesome now playing screen animations that are on the Zune HD. I guess the compensation for that is having the artist appear on the lock screen, but even that loses luster after about 5 artists or so.
So now, your introduction to Zune is either through the free PC software, the expensive Xbox 360 or the (in-time) expensive Windows Phone 7. There's really not an introductory (read: inexpensive way) to introduce someone to this Zune ecosystem. The software is fine, but what if they want to take that music they got off Zune Music Pass with them?
What's the introductory portable solution?
Even Apple, with their iPod Touch, I'm sure understands that it (plus the Nano/Shuffle, to an extent) allow people less costly ways to get into their ecosystem. Microsoft needs an equivalent to this. Zune HD would've filled that void nicely and why not a $99 Zune HD 16GB?
If you're a parent, who doesn't want to give your kid a Windows Phone, but they want to take music with them what are they going to do?
KIN, as skewed as people made it out to be, could've been this device that would've made a great starter media player. Remove that nonsense with Verizon and the data plan, make it a Wi-Fi only device (hell, even remove the phone from it) and this -- right along side the Zune HD -- would've made a nice portable device line up for Microsoft.
But now we don't have that. We have a great Zune experience at home, but on-the-go still leaves a hole missing. And don't even think tablets are going to fill that area? We need a media player, some sort of portable device.
Either that or people will use Windows Media Player (since it can read MP3s) and connect some player to that, but now you've reached the territory of unnecessary technology connections and non-elegance.
In any event, if you want a Zune HD for yourself, better seek one out...and fast!