Microsoft’s Zune Player will add HD Radio technology. The Zune HD will feature an HD Radio Tuner, and is designed to take on Apple’s iTouch. Broadcasters quickly rallied around this announcement last week, as this will be the first HD Radio mobile device.
Nevermind that the Zune will also play Internet radio (with a wifi connection), that fact is not even mentioned. Broadcasters are still trying to shove HD Radio down listener’s throats. Since the launch of HD Radio in 2005, nearly 2,000 radio stations have made the transition, launched hundreds of HD side channels, lots of manufacturers and auto manufacturers have rolled out receivers. But consumer acceptance has lagged. Reportedly, HD Radio still does not have 1 million listeners. Internet radio? 42 million listeners weekly, according to the latest Arbitron/Edison survey.
In some ways, Zune and HD Radio are perfect partners. Microsoft’s Zune is a weak second choice to Apple’s iPod and iTouch, while HD Radio takes that position alongside Internet radio. But Broadcasters are still holding out hope that HD Radio listening and demand will grow.
The decision to equip the new Zune with HD Radio technology definitely leaves industry watchers scratching their heads. Mostly, I want to know who was responsible for selling Microsoft on the idea. That’s an accomplishment I’ll take my hat off to…