Round-up on all things Microsoft Zune 2 – new players, software and community launched today!

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As promised a few weeks back, the Zune 2 has finally hit stores today in the US – well, will be today, what with the time difference and everything. As expected, there’s an onslaught of announcements and info flooding the interweb about the launch, of which us poor UK Zune fans can only read from afar, dreaming of the day Microsoft launch their players over here.

– The flagship model in their new range is the top-end 80GB Zune, shown on the left here, which features a 3.2″ screen, and is available in black, for $249.99. A touch-sensitive navigation button, revamped UI and customisable wallpaper pictures are all sweet additions, as is the FM tuner, and wireless-synch ability for connecting to your home Wi-Fi network.

– Flash models, shown above in the available colours of pink, green, black and red, are available in 4GB and 8GB capacities. Not only do they play music, they also play video, and offer wireless-synch to your home Wi-Fi network, all for $199.99.

– Disgruntled first-gen Zune owners can update their MP3 players with a pain-free upgrade, available via download on the Zune site.

– The Zune Marketplace, the store to go to buy your music tracks, is now flogging DRM-free tracks for 99 cents, or 79 Microsoft Points.

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– Microsoft has also launched Zune Originals, giving customers the choice to customise their 2nd-gen model for free. 18 international artists are being supported by Microsoft, with 27 original illustrations, choice of colour, and even four lines of text being offered.

Zune Social is also live as of today, acting as a community for Zune owners. ‘Zune Cards’ update users’ profiles with the tracks they’re listening to on their player, and are embeddable into social-networking profiles or blogs. The site also sends song links and messages to friends, post comments on profiles and all manner of web 2.0-y type features.

For reviews on the new flash-based Zune, or 80GB Zune, check out CNet, Wired and PC Mag for tip-top thoughts.

Unfortunately there’s still no word as yet on UK and Europe launch-dates, so any keen Zune fans wishing to purchase one will have to do as I plan on doing in January, and pick one up whilst over in the US. At least it’ll be cheaper, this way…

Zune

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Katherine Hannaford