(Not so) Crazy Microsoft Rumors: A new Zune HD?

I'm kicking off a new series on my site: (Not So) Crazy Microsoft Rumors. This week's rumor is all about whether Microsoft may bring to market one more Zune HD before it turns Zune into an audio/video service only.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As part of my job as a full-time Microsoft watcher, I get a lot of tips about Microsoft from customers, competitors, partners and even some Softies themselves. However, ever since I worked for PCWeek as a reporter more than 15 years ago, I had it drilled into my head that until I could get three independent sources -- none of whom was repeating something s/he heard in an echo chamber -- to corroborate a tip, I couldn't run it as a story.

These days, I see lots of single-sourced tips being posted by bloggers and journalists. More than a few of these are based on a single, anonymous source, with no further identificationto help readers decide whether a tip is likely to be true or not. No "according to a Microsoft partner who requested anonymity." No "so says a small-business customer angry over the latest slip-up, who asked not to be identified." Not even a thinly veiled "according to a person who was not authorized to speak for Company X" (but did so anyway).

This lack of attribution gave me a maybe-not-so-crazy idea. A year or so ago, inspired by the "CrazyAppleRumors" folks, I bought the "CrazyMicrosoftRumors" domain name. I let it lapse. But I recently repurchased it. Why not put the concept (and maybe some day, the actual site) to use?

In the interim, I'm going to launch a series of occasional posts here on "All About Microsoft," where I'll take a single-sourced tip that I can't find two other independent sources to verify and run it as a "rumor." I'm not going to do this with just any old tip; I am going to pick and choose ones where I have faith in the tipster's batting average and/or believe the tip makes a lot of sense. I will clearly label these posts as "(Not so) Crazy Microsoft Rumors," so readers know exactly what they're getting.

If you want to send along any rumor candidates, just use the e-mail form at the bottom of my blog. All tips I receive are considered confidential, so don't worry about including your real name (if you want to do so).

Let's start things off with a rumor that just won't die -- and one that is fitting to run on the day Apple announced a revamped iPod Touch line, plus social/streaming music capabilities along the lines of what Microsoft already offers with ZunePass.

I keep hearing from a source of mine who has been a solid tipster on Microsoft-consumerish things in the past that Microsoft is still considering rolling out at least one more Zune HD media player. Let's call it, just for fun, the Zune HD2 (though maybe Zune HD7 (potentially stealing a good name away from HTC) is a more likely name, given the Softies' love of all things numbered 7 these days).Last I heard, iIt was supposed to be Microsoft's iPod Touch competitor.

Microsoft delivered the first Zune HD models in October 2009. At that time, company officials began (gently, but firmly) warning Microsoft customers that there might be only one more Zune coming, but that was it. After that, Microsoft was turning Zune into an audio/video subscription service that would be available on PCs and devices -- and maybe some day even Macs.

After Microsoft had its Windows Phone 7 reset, talk of a new ZuneHD2 tapered off. But lately, I've been hearing that, in spite of the Zune HD's not-so-stellar sales, plus Microsoft's failure to make the hardware available outside the U.S., the Softies may still have one more digital-media player coming. My rumormonger says it could be a calendar 2011 deliverable and possibly could sport an ARM processor of some kind. The Zune HD2 would incorporate a number of the UI changes from the Windows Phone 7 folks, the tipster claims -- which makes sense given the Windows Phone 7 UI borrowed so heavily from the Zune HD UI.

No word from my tipster on dimensions, price, will/won't there be cameras or any other details users might want to know about a potential new Zune HD. Also no word on how Microsoft might position such a device if it ever comes to market: Would it be more like a "Windows Phone 7 Lite"/iPod Touch? A gaming-focused handheld like the rumored Sony PSP Go successor? Or more like a mini slate/tablet (like one of those new Archos 28s running Froyo)?

As some Zune enthusiasts note, a firmware update for existing Zunes might make more sense than another new ZuneHD model.

What do you think? Will/should Microsoft deliver a Zune HD successor? Or is this nothing but a crazy Microsoft rumor?

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