updated 03:35 am EDT, Tue September 15, 2009
Zune 4.0 software and Zune HD apps
Microsoft tonight provided full details for its Zune update with the launch of the Zune HD, including features both on the device and the PC side. Both the player and the new 4.0 software now support renting movies in 720p and in standard definition from the Zune Marketplace. Crucially, the player is also now revealed to have non-media (but first-party) apps: the Zune HD will support just a calculator and MSN Weather out of the box but should get Facebook and Twitter apps before the end of the year. 3D games are also coming in 2009 and should include Audiosurf Tilt, Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition and Vans Sk8: Pool Service to start.
On Windows PCs, the new Zune software will add the Zune HD's Quickplay feature, which provides top-level access to favorites, new items and recents. It also now has a Smart DJ feature which, much like the Genius feature in iTunes, creates playlists based on a particular song. However, Microsoft's approach also lets users create these lists based on artists or albums and will give Zune Pass users lists created on the entire Zune Marketplace catalog rather than just their local collections.
The company is further giving access to the Zune Pass beyond the Zune app for Windows and will let users stream music through a compatible web browser, though it isn't specified whether users need Silverlight or a particular browser to access the content. Smart DJ is available through the web component.
Zune HD sales start at retail later today and include both a 16GB black version for $220 as well as a 32GB platinum-colored model for $290. Users can also custom-color the player through Zune Originals, where users can pick from blue, green and red aluminum hues as well as add custom engraved art from either a new set of artists as well as Major League Soccer teams and high-profile Xbox 360 game logos. Currently, all special colors and engravings are free.
Be sure to read our early look at the Zune HD, which is soon to be joined by a closer look at the fully unlocked player and software.