Where Will Zune Go Now?

With the impending release of Windows Phone 7 rumored to be October 11 or 25, depending on who you want to listen to, what is being overshadowed in the next version of Zune.

A new version of the Zune software is coming pre-Windows Phone.  We do know that.  There have been some leaks about what will be in this supposed version 4.7.  It will include syncing for the new Phone and apps for said phone.  It will divide movies into DRM-free and Purchase categories.  It will track past purchases and make them available for streaming.  Biggest of all, for many users, will be the integration of Xbox 360.  Supposedly you will be able to continue a game on your phone that you saved on your Xbox.  I am sure that will be huge for the gamers among us.

What isn’t entirely clear is where the Zune hardware will go.  Will the software integration into the phone make the stand-alone Zunes disappear?  That would be a shame.  I, for one, prefer having the separate device.  Even though my phone plays media very well, I don’t want to use it’s battery for that purpose.  Microsoft already eliminated all but the Zune HD with last year’s lineup refresh.

Will they continue to sell the Zune HD, and update it’s software to be compatible with Windows Phone 7 apps (if that’s even possible)?  If they can, and do, do this then it’s a credible competitor to the iPod Touch (providing the apps are built).

It seems unlikely that Microsoft will bring back the smaller Zune version that was sold the past 2 years, even though Apple continues to get mileage out of it’s competitor, the Nano.

We are coming down to the wire now and should have most, if not all, of these answers within the next month.  I am still using, and loving, my Zune and hoping for the best here.  It seems like it may be on shaky ground though.  I won’t be shocked (only disappointed) if Zune becomes a software-only item.