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Ditch the Zune, Microsoft. Bring me Xbox Mobile

Microsoft is keeping to its promise of offering more Zunes next year, but Don Reisinger would rather get his hands on an Xbox handheld gaming device.

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Matt Rosoff, a CNET Blog Network blogger who writes "Digital Noise," said in a recent blog post that he spoke to Microsoft's marketing director, Adam Sohn, earlier this week, and Sohn told him that although Zune sales were poor, Microsoft still plans to release a new set of players before the 2009 holiday season. According to Rosoff, Sohn said "they'll be a surprising step up from the current models."

Great. But I don't know why Microsoft plans to waste its time with the Zune. According to its latest quarterly filing, Zune platform revenue decreased $100 million, or 54 percent, during the last quarter. Considering iPod unit sales were up 3 percent during the same quarter and Apple enjoyed $3.3 billion in revenue, I'm not convinced Microsoft's plan to offer new Zune models is a good idea.

Instead of wasting our time and its money on the Zune, I'd like to see Microsoft ditch its attempt to make progress in the personal music player market and tackle the handheld gaming space. Why not? It could transfer all its funding and development costs to that division and in the process, jump in on one highly lucrative market.

Since its release, Nintendo has sold more than 97 million Nintendo DS units. Sony, although it's experiencing troubling times with its PlayStation 3, is actually performing quite well in the handheld space. In fact, it has sold almost 44 million PSP units.

December NPD sales showed that Nintendo sold more than 3 million Nintendo DS units. Sony sold more than 1 million PSP units, eclipsing the PlayStation 3 by more than 300,000 units during the month.

So as Sony and Nintendo continue to enjoy strong sales in the handheld space, Microsoft hitches its mobile device future to the Zune?

I don't want the Zune and I never will. But if Microsoft released a handheld Xbox device, you can bet I'd be first in a long line to pick one up.

That is, of course, as long as the Xbox handheld was worth picking up. Just a Zune with some games isn't going to do it. What I'm looking for from Microsoft is a real PSP rival; a device that improves the handheld gaming market.

In the Xbox handheld, I'd like to see graphical prowess that's at least comparable with the original Xbox. I also want two analog sticks with more responsiveness than the current PSP stick. To the right of the screen, I want the same Xbox buttons we've grown accustomed to.

But it goes beyond aesthetics and power. I'd like the Xbox handheld to offer true integration with Xbox 360 titles. That's somewhat possible in games for the PS3 and PSP, but it's not nearly where I'd like it to be. To be happy, I'd need to be able to transfer game progress from my Xbox 360 to my Xbox handheld and continue playing wherever I am./p>

I don't need touch technology, since I can already find it in the Nintendo DS, and I don't want Tetris clones. All I really want is to be able to take my Xbox 360 experience with me wherever I go. (Oh, and a price tag of about $250 wouldn't be too bad either.)

I know getting all my desires into one device might be difficult and I'm sure it would be expensive for Microsoft. But with more than $8 billion in its coffers, Microsoft has more than enough cash to make it work. I believe Microsoft could build this product, and its Xbox history shows it knows the games market better than music.

Microsoft is wasting its time with the Zune as the portable gaming market grows around it. I realize executives have said in the past that they're not looking to get into the handheld gaming market, but let's be honest, is the Zune and its irrelevance really a better option?

I don't think so.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.