Science

Microsoft unveils Zune 2 media player

Microsoft Corp. has unveiled the next generation of its Zune media player, the software giant's competitor to Apple's iPod, introducing three models on Tuesday.

Microsoft Corp. has unveiled the next generation of its Zune media player, the software giant's competitor to Apple's iPod, introducing three models on Tuesday.

This Zune 2 portable media player is a flash-memory model available in 4-GB and 8-GB sizes. ((Ted S. Warren/Associated Press))

The new line of players will include the first models with flash-memory drives instead of hard-disk drives. The new technology allows for smaller, thinner players, albeit with less storage capacity. The iPod Nano uses a flash drive.

Two of the three Zune 2 models will use flash-based drives, with four and eight gigabytes of storage capacity, while the third will have an 80 GB hard-disk drive. One GB of storage is enough to store about 250 songs or 75 minutes of video.

The new devices are also expected to keep a feature that made the original unique: a built-in wireless connection that allows users to share songs with other nearby Zune users, and an FM radio tuner.

Microsoft's first foray into the portable media player market has been viewed as a partial success. The original line of Zune players, launched in November 2006, sold more than a million units. So far the Zune has only been available in the United States.

But that number pales in comparison to the continued success of the iPod. Apple sold about nine million iPod units in the third quarter of 2007 alone.

"There's nothing earth-shattering there," said Van Baker, an analyst at the research group Gartner. "Maybe next year [Microsoft] can make an aggressive push against Apple."

According to the reports, the Zune 2 is expected to be available in November. The 4 GB Zune will cost $149 US, the 8 GB one will sell for $199 and the 80 GB model for $249.

The prices match those of Apple Inc.'s comparable iPod models.

Microsoft is said to be manufacturing 2.4 million Zunes for the holiday season, according to reports from technology new outlet BetaNews.

With files from the Associated Press

now