New Zunes Are Coming!

Posted by at 5:18 pm on September 12, 2008

Microsoft has announced many exciting changes to their Zune lineup.   Starting next week, every Zune portable media player will let consumers wirelessly download or stream millions of songs on the go from thousands of wireless hot spots around the country.

Free software and firmware updates will give Zune owners the ability to discover, tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio, wirelessly access the Zune Marketplace store , and tap into interactive, personalized music recommendations. Zune is also expanding its device lineup with new 16GB and 120GB capacities as well as shiny new blue-on-silver and sleek all-black color schemes. The new features will begin rolling out on Sept. 16, 2008.

“Digital music services really come alive when they help people find not only the music they know they like, but the music they didn’t know they would love,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of Global Marketing for Zune at Microsoft. “With the combination of subscription, wireless access to millions of tracks, and powerful discovery features like personal recommendations and the ability to buy music from FM radio, Zune is taking the digital music experience to the next level.”

Zune is also taking advantage of the wireless connection and the built-in FM tuner to deliver a new feature called Buy from FM, which lets customers tag and purchase songs they hear on FM radio stations directly from the Zune device. When the customer is in a Wi-Fi hot spot, the song can be immediately downloaded to the Zune device. If Wi-Fi is not available, the device will have a queue of songs ready to download when connected to a home computer or in a hot spot. Buy from FM uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies that identify song and artist data and enable the Zune service to identify and deliver the track to the customer.   This will be a terrific addition to the rental feature already present on the Zune.

“Microsoft’s decision to integrate an FM tuner into the Zune was revolutionary and they continue their extraordinary leadership with Buy from FM,” said John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio. “We’ve always known that radio is the primary source for discovering new music, and Microsoft’s decision to marry music discovery and delivery does two things: enables consumers to instantly satisfy their passion and enables FM song tagging to be enjoyed by all radio listeners, everywhere.”

Zune customers have a choice in how they acquire music: They can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass subscribers can download or stream music to the device or their computer interchangeably, all for a flat rate of $14.99 per month. So whether a device has 4 GB or 120 GB of storage, Zune Pass customers can access and stream millions of songs directly to their Zune.   This has been a great feature for me, I enjoy getting to try all different kinds of music.

Zune software learns what kind of music users like and makes personal recommendations. When users log onto Zune Marketplace, they find a new area called Picks where the Zune recommendation algorithm will suggest artists, albums and tracks based on the music they have been listening to, as well as channels they might like and listeners like them in the Zune Social.

Customers can connect with millions of like-minded fans and share music via the Zune Card, a real-time playlist of each user’s favorite and recently played tracks that can be accessed on the Web or within the Zune software, or synced to the Zune device. Zune Pass subscribers can play full tracks from Zune Cards synced to their device while on the go, and now the playlists will even automatically update with the most recently played tracks when Zune connects to a wireless hot spot.   The Zune PC software is a free download at http://www.zune.net.
     
The improved Now Playing view is more interactive and cinematic. Users can enjoy the combination of artist imagery, colorful effects, bio information and data from the Zune online music community, all combined in a full-screen view. They can also click to dive deeper into the music behind the picture, providing another way to interact with their collection.

In addition to the new wireless functionality, Zune will bring other new features customers have been asking for.   Two free games, Hexic which is a puzzle game of rotating pieces,  and Texas Hold Em, a poker game  will be included to keep  you entertained on the go.   Also, all Zune devices will feature support for audiobooks this fall from industry leaders in the digital distribution of audiobook content.   Customers can visit audible.com to download and sync favorite books from the 50,000 titles available from over 600 publishers and content providers.   This content was announced earlier in the year and is now finally  becoming available.   They can download content from sites powered by overdrive.com, including 7,500 libraries Web sites worldwide.  

Zune Pricing Information that is Effective Sept. 16
120 GB: $249.99
80 GB: $229.99  (Subject to availability, being discontinued)
16 GB: $199.00
8 GB: $149.99  
4 GB: $129.99  (Subject to availability,  being discontinued)

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