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New Zune Software Unleashed

Microsoft updated the Zune software today to the new version 2.0, so users of first-gen Zune devices can go get their new firmware and features. The update brings a much-improved version of the software, better than the Windows Media Player clone first version, with wireless sync, a new Zune Marketplace with over a million DRM-free tracks, cool new album art visualizations, and the new Zune social network.

The new Zunes go on sale, too, so get yourself an 80-gigabyte for $250 at Amazon, or the 8-gigabyte Flash Zune for $200 in red or pink or green, $187 in black, or the 4-gigabyte for $150 in pink or red or green, $138 in black.

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If you’re wondering why the 80-gig Zune is only available in black, the answer is: It isn’t. The big secret Microsoft held back is Zune Originals, the website where you can order any Zune (right now, only the Flash Zunes, but next month, the 80-gigger also) and choose the color, select artwork to be etched on the back, and/or add up to five lines of text to be etched on the back, at no additional charge.

Consumers no longer need to settle for the same portable media player as everybody else. The new Zune Originals online store will let people make a unique statement by customizing their Zune with laser-engraved art or personal text. Zune worked with 18 accomplished artists from all over the world to create a collection of 27 different designs, called the Artist Series, which will be available exclusively through Zune Originals. In addition to the Artist Series, a separate Tattoo Series will feature 20 graphics that consumers can have laser-engraved on their Zune with up to three lines of text. Alternatively, people can choose to engrave up to five lines of text in place of a design. On the Zune Originals Web site, customers can choose their Zune (Zune 80GB, Zune 8GB or Zune 4GB), pick a color and then select a design and their desired text.

This is a really cool service, one you have to pay for and sometimes don’t even get with that other fruit company, and to give it away for free is really great. Microsoft is making it easy and affordable to personalize your Zune, and that is going to be very appealing to some potential purchasers.

The only downside I can see is that, as time goes by, retailers are going to discount the Zune, making the Zune Originals version more expensive than retail. Since Microsoft is going by the official retail price, which will not go down for a while, this won’t be very “free” for much longer, which is a shame. Amazon is already selling some Zunes for $12-13 off, and that divide will only worsen.

Long Zheng spotted a Corvette hot yellow Zune, which looks really cool. I might have to give that one a second look when it becomes official.

November 13th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Zune, Windows Media, General | no comments

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