Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and Corporate Vice President J Allard yesterday unveiled the next generation of Zune portable media players, software and online store. Gates and Allard also introduced Zune Social, a beta online community Web site built around and powered by people’s passion for music.
Microsoft announced three new models of Zune portable digital media players: a sleek, black Zune 80GB hard-drive model, which has a bright 3.2-inch screen and comes with premium headphones (ERP $249.99; all prices are U.S.); the ultraportable Zune 4GB (ERP $149.99); and Zune 8GB (ERP $199.99) flash models, both available in pink, green, black and glossy red. The new Zune devices feature the Zune Pad navigation button, with its touch-sensitive surface. Consumers can flick their thumbs over the pad to fly through lists of songs or albums or to fast-forward through picture slide shows or videos. For those who need to pause, advance or adjust the volume on the device without looking, they can also navigate the Zune Pad using physical cues by pressing on the four sides or the center of the button to adjust the volume or choose the next track.
Launching first in beta, Zune Social, a beta online community Web site, gives people a place to share their music tastes, knowledge and experiences with others. Anyone can create a free, customizable Zune Card that automatically updates to reflect the music they are listening to on their Zune or with Zune software on their computer. The Zune Card shows most recently played tracks and highlights that person’s all-time music favorites. Other members of Zune Social can play samples of the songs a user has been playing directly from a friend’s Zune Card or link to Zune Marketplace, where they can buy or download the music. In a nod to the inherently social nature of music, Zune Social will eventually enable its members to place the Zune Card on today’s most popular social networking sites, where it will continue to update automatically and show off what its owners are listening to.