Zune, Microsoft's advanced digital music player that is aimed squarely at combating the mighty iPod, is getting an upgrade this fall with the introduction of the Zune HD. The music and entertainment device not only plays music and video, but it is equipped with Wi-Fi, as well as a radio receiver that allows the user to access HD radio stations, the Internet, and even play Xbox Live on the go.
Microsoft hopes that the 17 million Xbox Live users will revive sales of the portable device, which has so far seen only moderate success. The L.A. Times reported that since its arrival in 2006, the Zune has sold only three million units, compared to the iPod, which sold 3.79 million just in the last quarter.
"Some users of the iPod are going to see what we are offering, the value we're offering and the benefits we have," said Jose Pinero, Director of Multicultural Marketing for Microsoft. "We're hoping that a lot of people will get familiar with the Zune service and the social aspect of entertainment."
Pinero said that with the new Zune HD, Microsoft is not only looking to attract loyal iPod users, but also to garner the interest of the Xbox crowd, which represents a significant niche market for mobile entertainment. Xbox, Microsoft's very popular video game system, has sold approximately 30 million units since its launch in November 2005, according to the L.A. Times. Microsoft is hoping that the new Zune's ability to interface with
the Xbox will translate to more sales among hard-core gamers.
Pinero said that Zune users will be able to buy or rent movies for the portable player that can also be played on the Xbox. "We are opening the door to do a lot more with videos, play them on the Zune or through the Xbox."
Unlike the original Zune which only had video, music, and limited Web browsing capabilities, the HD version comes with an OLDED (organic light emitting diode) screen, a sensitive multi-touch screen, full Internet access, and three channels of HD radio. And, in an effort to outdo the mighty iPod, which has so far seen few serious contenders in the mobile entertainment industry, the new Zune will be able to stream its HD videos to a home computer or television.
"This announcement [of the HD Zune] has to do with Microsoft's commitment to entertainment. Our vision is to have connected entertainment ... to enjoy all these components to through the Zune," said Pinero.
Pinero also reported that Microsoft has yet to release details regarding the new portable entertainment center's size and available colors. He did reveal, however, that the price of an all-music access membership will cost users $14.99 per month.
"We you look at the value proposition that we offer," said Pinero, mentioning that Zune users will have access to 5 million songs, "I think it's a great offer."
The Zune HD will hit the shelves fall 2009 for a yet-to-be-revealed cost.
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