Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will offer three new models of the Zune in November, including two equipped with flash memory. The 4GB and 8GB versions are iPod Nano look-alikes that will sell for a suggested retail price of $149 and $199 respectively. An 80GB player equipped with a hard drive will sell for $249. The pricing scheme for the devices exactly mirrors that of Apple’s iPods.
Some of the other changes include a complete overhaul of the device’s software and a redesign of Marketplace, Zune’s music store. Other interesting features include wireless syncing and the new Zune Pad, a touch-sensitive technology that enables users to slide their finger across the main navigation button instead of always having to click.
Microsoft is a living example of the “third time’s the charm” axiom. Windows, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Center, etc.; it usually takes Bill G and company three times to knock it out of the park. They’re certainly heading that way with the Xbox 360, and it looks like the Zune may follow this trend as well.
No one in their right mind – or at the very least, anyone without an axe to grind – believed or said that Microsoft would be able to unseat the iPod right out of the gate with the Zune. And they didn’t. They won’t with this revision either – but they’re much closer to parity. For now, I’m still sticking with the iPod for my portable media (just bought a 160GB iPod Classic) – but come next year and the Zune 3.0, it may be a different story. The Zune may never be the literal “iPod Killer”, but it may well give Apple a run for their money.