The Zune, just like every other Microsoft product is a very functional and feature rich device. Unfortunately, it simply lacks the cool factor that seems to come bundled with every iPod ever shipped. Despite the intense struggles it has faced however, it seems pretty clear at this point that Microsoft is ready to stay the course and is content to scrap it out for the number two position. At least, this is the impression Joe Belfiore gave CNET News in a tell all interview on the future of the Zune. In the interview Belfiore recants his dream of a future where media flows seamlessly from Zune to Xbox or even a Mediaroom IPTV. On the subject of a Zune phone, Belifore didn’t have much to say other “stay tuned”. It’s hard to read much into that, but clearly it’s a lucrative market that could really help push the brand forward if executed properly. For those who haven’t been following the lineup, Microsoft just recently released new Zune hardware. They include a 120 GB hard drive based player to compete with the iPod classic, and an 8 GB flash drive based device to take on the iPod Nano. Both have been priced aggressively to compete with Apple going into the holiday season and in many ways are still a better value. From the interview it also seems apparent that Microsoft will continue to push hard on the value of the Zune as a social experience. Zune owners have the option of sharing playlists with friends and can even create profiles so everyone on the web will always know your favorite songs. The interview doesn’t reveal any new information, but presumably Microsoft must be carefully looking at devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both represent products they can’t currently compete with under their current lineup.
Despite its diminishing popularity, Microsoft still plans on releasing new Zune models in 120GB and 8GB (flash-based) capacities. We’re unsure what colors will be released, but we do know that you’ll at least have the option of a black 120GB and a blue 8GB.
Though the Zune never bumped Apple’s iPod out of first place, it managed to make its mark in the digital audio player (DAP) market with wireless syncing and a bigger screen. The player became a little played out though, with weak sales making the Zune an after thought in the DAP market.
Engadget reports that the old 80GB and 4GB were discontinued at Wal-Mart, just in time to pave the way for their successors. The new Zunes will cost $249 and $149, respectively, with the 80GB iPod Classic costing the same as a 120GB Zune. Though the price tag may seem a little steep, the Zune’s features, such as the built-in FM Tuner and wireless capabilities, give consumers a little more bang for their buck.