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Microsoft reveals new design, new software and new online services for iPod rival

New, improved Zune launched in the US

Having failed to make an impact on the iPod dominated MP3-player with the first Zune, Microsoft is putting a premium on bespoke design for its second effort. However, as this is accessed through www.zuneoriginals.net, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of warmth towards the channel in this launch. Nor towards non-US residents as you’ll see if you click on the link.

Those lucky enough to be allowed access to the site can choose from a collection of laser-engraved artwork designed exclusively for Zune by 18 internationally recognised artists. "I’m always interested in the way art can merge with technology to create a new dialogue," said Catalina Estrada, one of the 18. "My work has been shown in different venues all over the world, but Zune represents a brand-new canvas for me to display my ideas."

J Allard, Zune dude at Microsoft, said: "We’re bringing the entire category to the next level by empowering consumers to play a role in redefining the digital music experience. Zune brings music discovery and acquisition into one simple, end-to-end solution, and the addition of unique customisation options puts the originality back into portable entertainment."

The $249.99 80GB black Zune has a 3.2-inch screen and comes with ‘premium’ headphones, while the $149.99 Zune 4GB and the $199.99 Zune 8GB are both available in pink, green, black and red. There is a new ‘Zune Pad’ touch-sensitive navigation button. Every Zune player includes wireless sync and wireless sharing, a built-in FM tuner, and a color screen.

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