Zune 2 – Microsoft gets it right?

    I’m as shocked as you are. But dig this:

    • They dropped the brown Zune. I know, I know, some of you like it. Some people also like buttered popcorn Jelly Belly’s. Freaks.
    • All new software features on the Zune 2 will come to the original Zune. Compare this with Apple shafting early iPhone adopters and you have a world gone mad.
    • Wireless syncing. Finally! Cables are so 20th century after all.
    • Media center syncing. This probably only appeals to a handful of people but gets us closer to the dream of a Tivo anywhere sort of scheme.
    • DRM-free, at least a million or so tracks on the Zune marketplace. I prefer Radiohead’s market scheme, but at least Microsoft is getting on track with things.

    Pricing is $249 for the 80GB hard drive unit, $149 for the 4GB flash model, and $199 for the 8 gigger. The flash units are close in dimension to the iPod Nano, albeit longer than wide, and include Wi-Fi. The new Zunes will drop in mid-November.
    More notes and thoughts after the break.
    As with all Microsoft products, they get a whole lot better on second release. It’s still not as svelte as its Apple counterparts, but the difference is slim. Sharing music is still restricted to three playbacks, but at least they’re dropping the time restriction. Podcast support has been built in, though apparently you must sync them over the wire. Wireless sharing will be extended to albums, playlists, pics, and podcasts.
    There’s also a new navigation nub called the Zune Pad, with a touch sensitive surface. It’s still no Apple scroll wheel, but will at least allow flicks of the finger to quickly scroll through content. Microsoft is also expanding their readily mocked notion of the “Zune Social”, with a website dedicated to people sharing their music tastes with others. This has only been done before, oh, about a dozen times elsewhere. In a nod to the other sites out there you can make a Zune Card which can be embedded on “today’s most popular social networking sites” (i.e. Facebook, MySpace most likely) so at least Microsoft isn’t ignoring the rest of the Intarweb.
    The Zune 2 has addressed a lot of the shortcomings of the original release, and better yet, the early 30 GB investors will benefit from the overhaul. It doesn’t have all the Internet features and large screen of the iPod Touch, but also offers up to ten times the space at less cost. Pending reviews that go over sound and video quality, MS could have a viable alternative to the Apple juggernaut here.