Microsoft Makes the Zune HD 64GB Official, Available 4/12

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The most underrated product in Microsoft’s consumer portfolio has to be the Zune. I’m serious. For $15/month you have access to unlimited music. If you don’t renew you lose everything, but $15/month isn’t that much. Also, all the cool kids at Microsoft don’t even work on the main campus. The Xbox, Zune, Bing and Windows Phone teams all work on a different campus far away from their stiff, corporate-y counterparts. But I digress.

Microsoft has jus announced the Zune HD 64GB and reduced the price of the 32GB and 16GB models. The 64GB model will be available starting April 12th for $350. That’s $50 cheaper than Apple’s 64GB iPod Touch. The Zune HD 32GB drops down to $270 starting today and the 16GB now retails for $200.

Firmware will be updated to 4.5 in the coming weeks with the following features:

  • Smart DJ on Zune HD: Zune has always been committed to helping people discover new music. We added “Smart DJ” to the Zune software last fall and now we’re bringing this popular music discovery feature to the Zune HD device. Smart DJ on Zune HD will let you create an instant playlist mix whenever the inspiration strikes direct from your device. Just choose a song or artist from your collection or from the Zune Marketplace catalog and press the Smart DJ icon to build a new mix based on your selection. If you have a Zune Pass music subscription it will pull music from your existing collection and the Zune Marketplace catalog to create the mix. If you don’t have a Zune Pass subscription you can still use Smart DJ to build a playlist from the collection on your device.
  • Picks on Zune HD: Picks is another popular music recommendation feature in the Zune software which we’re extending to the Zune HD device. The Picks algorithm analyzes what you listen to and compares that to millions of other Zune users to make personalized recommendations. With this update, you’ll be able to access these automatic recommendations directly on the Zune HD device as well as on your PC.
  • Browse and Stream Music from Zune Marketplace on your TV: Using the Zune HD A/V dock, you can connect your Zune HD to your TV to play your favorite videos and music from your device on the big screen. With this software update, you’ll also be able to browse and stream music from Zune Marketplace directly on your TV to find and listen to your favorite music from the comfort of your couch. You can browse New Releases, check out recommendations from your Picks page, search for a specific song or artist, or even create a new Smart DJ playlist on your big screen – a great way to make an instant soundtrack for your next party.
  • Expanded Video Codec Support: With expanded support to include MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP), which includes Xvid and AVI support, you’ll be able to immediately enjoy a broader range of video content natively on Zune HD – no transcoding required.