New, improved Zune launched in the US

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

Zune, a 30GB MP3 player has been launched in the US and is expected to be just the first in a new range of ‘connected entertainment’ products from the software giant.