New Zunes And A Certain Rodent We All Know.

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So the new Zunes are here. Stories are just rolling in since the embargo only recently lifted for the major outlets a little while ago (though smaller outlets trickled the word out, such as the Gizmodo picture above).

My initial comment: The new squared-off circle “Zune Pad” and the buttons at its upper left and right are going to make comparisons with Mickey Mouse inevitable.

Photo below is from Daily Tech. The hard-drive model still has the buttons on the side. It’s only the flash-based model that looks like Mickey:

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They dropped the brown color, and the black one doesn’t look all that bad. I like the red, not sure about the pink, and they sure picked an ugly green.

These were clearly targeted at the old generation iPod classic and nano lines, and they boast larger screens than that older generation (physically, not sure about resolution). Apple moved the goal posts ahead last month, though. The interface has been redone, and the squircle “Zune Pad” apparently has some touch controls (well, they had to get the word “touch” on the device somehow, didn’t they?).

Looks like they added h.264 and MPEG-4 video support. Wise move.

Went to the Zune site’s web page, but except for marketing spiel (with appropriate footnotes) there’s no data. When are they gonna publish specs for the thing?

From the Daily Tech article we see prices are identical to Apple’s iPod classic 80GB, nano 4GB and 8GB offerings. The HDD unit is slimmer than their first generation at .5”, but still nearly 20% thicker than the iPod! In fact, the 160GB iPod is only a hair thicker than the Zune 80. As for the flash units, they were designed with a shape like the old generation nanos, but are still 25% thicker than Apple’s.

The Zunes still “squirt” music, but it seems that now the limitation is just three plays (i.e., not also three days). This means there is still DRM on squirted music, and the footnote that not all music can be squirted is also still there. In other words, squirting is still kind of silly. They get some use out of WiFi by allowing OTA syncing, but Apple’s WiFi music store is a much better use of WiFi in my opinion. I mean, a whole lot better use. I mean, literally miles ahead.

Microsoft says the Zune marketplace is adding maybe a million DRM-free tracks. Again, no details. What is it with Microsoft and having no freakin’ details?! This is their big launch for the holidays and they won’t tell us anything. Isn’t it bad enough they did it in the middle of the night? Gee, Microsoft, ashamed much?

The Zunes will auto-sync video with Media Center PCs, which require Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and a TV tuner card. Not sure of the details (surprise!) on this syncing yet. Podcast support is now available. Further, the interface is said to have been rewritten.

They ship in November but — you guessed it — no date provided yet.

In short, these do look like nice improvements to the original, and a firmware update will add the OTA syncing and newer interface to older Zunes, which is nice for them (what a shock, no word on when that update wil be available). Still, they seem a bit behind the times after the latest iPods, yet they won’t even ship for another 4-8 weeks!

The 30GB model will still be available at $199, which seems ridiculous since it’s bigger and uglier. If they still wanted a 30GB model why the heck didn’t they put it in the newer case? Microsoft just doesn’t make any sense sometimes… Oh, wait, I know. They have a boatload of leftover inventory and they need to clear it all. That makes sense. Unlike Apple, they can’t count on older stock being cleared before rolling out the new stuff. It’s not that popular.

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