Microsoft Announces New Zune Lineup, Wireless Syncing

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Microsoft announced a new slate of Wi-Fi-equipped Zune players today, including $150 4GB and $200 8GB flash-based players, and a $250 80GB model that's slimmer than the original Zune. All of the new models feature touch-sensitive controls and wireless syncing with your PC, a much-demanded feature that Microsoft will also make available on the original 30GB Zune when the new models debut in mid November.

The software giant will also update the look of its Zune software player and add new community features and DRM-free music sales to its Zune Marketplace music store. The updated Zune players aren't yet available for testing, but here's what we know about the new models:

Second-Generation Hardware

Despite its first-generation flaws, I actually sort of liked the old 30GB Zune. The specs for this new generation of players offer some indications that Microsoft may be on the right track.

All three new players are built around a rounded touch-sensitive control that also doubles as a clickable d-pad-style controler, much like the Click Wheel on Apple's iPods. That should allow you to skip backward and forward through songs or adjust volume withoutlooking at the player. According to Microsoft, the Zune's touchpad is more gesture-based than the Click Wheel--you'll flick your finger across the pad to navigate, rather than circling around it to scroll through tracks.

Microsoft didn't provide full height and weight specs on the 80GB player, but it should be considerably thinner than the 30GB Zune. The Zune 80GB also carries a 3.2-inch, scratch- resistant, glass screen that's a bit larger than the original Zune's 3-inch display.

The 80GB hard drive player is available in black and ships with a set of "premium" in-ear headphones. Microsoft will continue to offer the original 30GB hard-drive-based Zune player (even the brown one) for $200, though it's hard to see the appeal of that model with a smaller, sleeker successor available with more than double the capacity for just an extra $50.

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