Microsoft Rolls Out New Zunes to Take on iPod

As promised, Microsoft rolled out three second-generation versions of its Zune music player Tuesday.  Two of the players will be flash-based, while the other is a hard-drive based player.

The new Zunes will come in 4-gigabyte, 8-gigabyte and 80-gigabyte models. All will come with a feature that allows a user to automatically sync media via a WiFi network from a PC to the Zune when its battery is charging.

Microsoft also aims to tap the social-networking phenomenon with Zune Social, a Web site for users to display music they like, share playlists and find friends with similar tastes.

The new devices, set to go on sale in mid-November, are equipped with a circular navigational pad that allows a user to both "flick" through options like on a touch screen or "click" through choices.

The 4-GB model will go on sale at $149, the 8-GB Zune will cost $199 and the 80-GB model will sell for $249. Those prices are the same as similar-sized iPods.

Microsoft also said it would add more than 1 million MP3 (meaning DRM-free!) onto Zune Marketplace, but declined to identify music labels it planned to work with.  Most likely it will be the same as other DRM-free music download services, centering around EMI and independent labels.

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