updated 05:15 pm EDT, Mon September 8, 2008
MS Confirmes New Zunes
(Updated with official shots, details) Microsoft today confirmed the recently leaked third-generation Zune details that appeared over the weekend as well as filling in new details of its own. The new hardware will be the first from Microsoft to support over-the-air downloads to the Zune, allows tagging songs on FM radio to buy them later, and supports dynamic, themed Channels that can be updated equally wirelessly.
Games will also be preloaded on Zunes for the first time and include both Hexic and Texas Hold'em; most Zune games will support custom soundtracks.
New to the confirmation is word of Audible audiobook format support and the ability to download books from libraries using the OverDrive service. In the PC-side software, Zune will also include an automatic recommendation system for the Zune Marketplace, similar to Apple's Just For You at iTunes, and a Mixview that shows the connections of a given artist or album to other items in the collection to provide a more organic connection between tracks.
Confirming price leaks, Microsoft says the Zune 8GB flash player replaces the 4GB version as the baseline and ships for $149. A 16GB version will sell for $199, while a hard drive-based Zune 120GB will sell for the same $249 as the 80GB model. The company intends to drop the price on earlier Zunes to clear out stock and will sell the 4GB player for $130, while the 80GB edition will sell for $230.
Players are already surfacing as in stock at some stores now, though the firmware update and matching software aren't expected until September 16th. These should apply to earlier-generation players, though Microsoft hasn't said whether these will also work with the Zune 30.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft's decision to confirm virtually all details of its Zune refresh ahead of any formal announcement, in some cases as quickly as late August, is unknown. However, reports increasingly suggest the new Zunes will receive an official press release on Tuesday and so would potentially be overshadowed by iPod and iTunes announcements.