Microsoft Debuts New Zunes for Holidays

As expected, Microsoft unveiled its second generation Zune players on Tuesday night, including three new sizes, new software, and an updated store. In addition, it gave details of a new community site to launch next month.

The details of the players match information that sources first told BetaNews Monday afternoon. Central to the new players is the Zune Pad, a touch sensitive button for navigation, and wireless sync. The new Zunes be released in mid-November.

"Twenty years ago we bet the company on an integrated productivity suite of word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, and we changed the way people work," chairman Bill Gates said at the event. "Today we're making big bets on games, music, video and connecting these entertainment experiences to help change the way people play."

The new Zune 80GB -- available only in black -- will feature a 3.2-inch screen with the new internal software, and will retail for $249.99 USD. The Zune 4GB and 8GB will be available for $149.99 and $199.99, and would come in pink, green, black, and red.

Gone from the color lineup is the white -- probably due to the color's strong association with the iPod -- and brown, a color that many never understood why Microsoft offered it in the first place.

New software features will include wireless sync, and more wireless sharing options. In addition, recorded television content from Windows Media Centers would also be transferable to the device.

These features will also be made available to owners of the first generation Zune through a free software update to be made available at the time of the new product's launch.

Zune Social is the new community site, and will allow users to share their music with one another in a social networking environment. The Zune Marketplace is also receiving a slight face lift, and Microsoft confirmed that it will indeed offer over one million MP3 tracks, free of DRM.

Analyst and blogger reaction to Microsoft's moves was generally positive. "Zune 2 is a nice complete offering from Microsoft but not one that changes the game dramatically relative to what the market leader is offering," JupiterResearch senior analyst Michael Gartenberg said.

Jason Chen of Gizmodo was most impressed by Microsoft's offering of the new features to Zune 1 owners. "Microsoft's done something fantastic here by rewarding first gen buyers with cool new stuff that also happens to be free by software upgrade," he wrote Wednesday. "Are you paying attention Apple?"

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