The broadcast industry is smiling this morning. Microsoft has announced the world's first portable media player to include HD Radio technology...the "Zune HD."  The Zune is a small video and audio player that will not only display high quality video, but also includes HDMI connectors to play true HD video on big screen TVs.  And, it will receive HD radio signals as well. The Zune will be available this fall and will come with both 16gig and 32gig models.  Key for consumers will be the pricing which Microsoft has yet to announce.

In making the announcement, Chris Stephenson, General Manager of Global Consumer Marketing, TV, Video & Music Business, Microsoft Corp., said, "Radio has always been a core feature in Zune devices as it plays central role in consumer's lives.  It is where they discover new music, tag songs for purchase and stay in touch with the goings-on in their local communities. We are excited to improve on this feature and provide free digital HD Radio reception in Zune HD. With its superior digital audio sound and ability to receive the vast array of new innovative HD2/HD3 multicast channels, Zune HD will be the world's first portable media player to include HD Radio technology.” (Click here to link to Microsoft’s announcement.)

The radio broadcas industry is ecstatic.

"On behalf of radio broadcasters across the country, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) applauds Microsoft for recognizing the value of free, local radio," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. "Today's announcement gives America's 235 million weekly radio listeners yet another platform to enjoy our free service, and it uniquely positions the Zune HD at the forefront of entertainment products."

Mark Mays, Chief Executive Officer of Clear Channel Communications, Inc., said, “Congratulations to Microsoft for continuing its commitment to give consumers their favorite source of music, news, sports and talk programming: radio.  We are particularly enthusiastic about the company’s commitment to state-of-the-art radio technology: the HD Radio system, which is now virtually standard across the country.”

Dan Mason, President and Chief Executive Officer, CBS Radio, added, “Again, Microsoft is demonstrating its leadership in consumer products by including HD Radio technology in its Zune HD.  Across the country, creative programmers are designing innovative programming for over 1,000 new HD2 and HD3 channels, which are only available to HD Radio receivers.  This will be a popular feature this fall when the product becomes available.”

Jeff Smulyan, Chairman of Board, President and CEO Emmis Communications Corporation, commented, “With digital HD Radio technology, the concept of what is ‘radio’ is evolving. Now, the technology will be seamlessly integrated into the Zune HD users’ basic experience of their portable device.”  

Bob Struble, President and CEO of iBiquity Digital Corporation, the developer of HD Radio technology commented, “We are very excited about the launch of HD Radio technology on Microsoft’s Zune HD. This brings a vast new group of consumers the high-quality, innovative HD2/HD3 programming only available through HD Radio broadcasts.  Microsoft is blazing a trail for a whole new generation of small, hand-held HD Radio enabled products. We are planning with the HD Radio Alliance to promote Zune HD to consumers.”

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