Microsoft launched three new Zune media players yesterday, taking one step further in its long-term campaign to knock-off the iPod. These trimmed down and sexed-up Zunes pack a bigger punch in terms of storage (the highest capacity one sports an 80GB hard drive, up from 30GB) and offer some cool new features.
For one, Microsoft has added wireless syncing, which uses the Zune's built-in Wi-Fi to sync the latest podcasts or other music onto Zunes via a user's wireless home network. In addition, Microsoft has lifted some restrictions on music you share with other Zune users — namely, you can share full-length versions of songs you like with other Zune owners (but, unfortunately, your Zune-owning-friends will only be able to listen to those songs three times).
We applaud the added Wi-Fi functionality, but the Zune still doesn't offer the useful ability to purchase and download songs via Wi-Fi that services like Music Gremlin, and, soon, iTunes, offer. A big omission, we say.
Still, Zune offers all-you-can eat music subscription services for $14.99 a month, an excellent and handy service that Apple doesn't offer. And the ability to transfer TV shows you may have recorded on your Windows Vista Ulimate or Premium laptop or desktop to your Zune is a huge plus. Despite some truly unique features and a slimmed-down, nicer-looking size and design, the new Zune won't overtake the iPod just yet. But Apple should hurry: The Zune offering the ability to watch shows you recorded for free is a serious app that should not be taken likely — after all, with NBC and other networks suddenly offering their TV shows for free instead of on iTunes, it looks like the days of paying for your shows may come to an end.