Microsoft has finally announced the launch of two new Zune MP3 players, possibly the second worst kept secret behind the Apple iPhone. Available only in the US for now, the new range looks largely as expected, with one 80GB hard disk model and a flash-based Zune which comes in 4GB and 8GB capacities.
The new Microsoft MP3 players feature the new Zune Pad navigation button, which has a touch-sensitive surface. You'll be able to flick your thumbs over the pad to fly through lists of songs or albums or to fast-forward through picture slide shows or videos. We've seen something like that somewhere before haven't we?
New Microsoft Zune
Together with the original Zune 30GB, Microsoft says the new devices round out the player family and give users a choice of size, colour and price. Every Zune device includes built-in wireless features and an FM tuner, and they all have a bright color display "that is perfect for showing off album art, pictures, videos and podcasts".
One of the most interesting parts of Microsoft's announcement was when it said that all Zune 30GB devices will be automatically updated with all the new features, as well as the new device software design, later this autumn. That's good news for people who bought version one.
"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," said Bill Gates. "Today we're making big bets on games, music, video and connecting these entertainment experiences to help change the way people play."
The 80GB Zune comes with premium headphones and will cost $250 (£122) while the 4GB flash model costs $150 (£73) and the 8GB $200 (£98).
- Wireless sync. Zune devices will automatically sync over your home wireless networks, which should ensure that you always have the latest podcasts and other content ready to go when you're leaving home. Syncing with the collection on your PC happens via a home wireless network and will start on its own when the device is placed in its dock or plugged in to charge. Alternatively, the sync can be started manually.
- Extended wireless sharing. Share selected full-length songs, albums, playlists, pictures and even audio podcasts from device to device. You can still listen to any song received up to three times with no time restrictions, and also pass along songs to your friends who have a Zune.
- Recorded television content to go. The Zune software will now automatically import broadcast content recorded on Windows Media Center for Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, so you can sync them onto your Zune media player and watch them on the bus, in your car or wherever you want when you're out and about.