ZuneHD Buzz: Multitouch Screen Ahead?

After weeks’ of rumors and speculation, posters at three different blogging sites are claiming to have sussed out the lowdown on Microsoft’s coming ZuneHD.

Technology enthusiasts at Neowin.net and LiveSide.net said they had pooled their resources in order to try to sort fact from fiction. Additionally, the Windows Mobile Power User site provided what it claims are photos of the as-yet-unannounced music player.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) introduced its own line of music players — dubbed Zune — two and a half years ago in November 2006. However, it hasn’t made a lot of headway against Apple’s massive iPod franchise to date.

Despite claims to the contrary by CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives, many observers have been expecting Microsoft to quit the music player business.

Yet if the latest from the blogging sites, are to be believed, Microsoft isn’t throwing in the towel on the Zune — instead, the specifications and pictures of the ZuneHD show that it’s gearing up to escalate the battle.

“From our limited information, it seems the ZuneHD will feature a lot of what Windows Mobile owners have long been waiting for,” an admin wrote in a post on Windows Mobile Power User.

“The ZuneHD will have a capacitive, multitouch OLED screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and TV out, from what looks to be a HDMI port on the side. The radio will now be HD and the device will support HD media playback, which will be available from the updated Zune Marketplace,” the writer said.

Meanwhile, LiveSide and Neowin said that it had been able to confirm many of the specifications of the so-called ZuneHD with sources inside Microsoft, including information revealed by Windows Mobile Power User: for example, support for a multitouch browser and user interface.

However, some differences do emerge. The Windows Mobile Power User site said the ZuneHD will be available with up to 32 GB of memory, while Neowin and LiveSide say their sources said that the new device’s capacity would extend to 120 GB.

So when will the ZuneHD be available? LiveSide and Neowin say to look for it in the early fall, which has been the pattern for previous Zune deliveries — just in time for the holidays.

A Microsoft spokesperson did not return a call for comment by press time.

Despite the uncertainty, fans are already buzzing about the prospects of a new Zune.

“Wow, this thing looks great and has amazing specs. OLED screen, HDMI output, HD radio, some form of Xbox game support, multitouch, Web browser, etc.,” one current-generation Zune owner wrote in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

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