Come next week, owners of Microsoft's portable music player Zune will be able to download music wirelessly and tag and buy songs they hear on the device's built-in FM radio, Microsoft said on Monday.
The software company is introducing a host of new features on September 16 for the Zune, its answer to Apple's iPod digital music player, which dominates the market and has sold more than 100 million units since its 2001 launch.
Microsoft will also introduce Zunes with storage capacities of 16 gigabytes and 120 gigabytes, with two new color schemes -- blue on silver and black on black.
The news comes one day ahead of an Apple event, where the maker of the Mac, iPod and iPhone is expected to roll out a new iPod Nano and may give an update on iPhone sales.
The new Zune feature, called "Buy from FM," lets customers tag and purchase songs they hear on FM radio stations using the FM tuner and the device's wireless capability.
"Digital music services really come alive when they help people find not only the music they know they like, but the music they didn?t know they would love," said Chris Stephenson, general manager of Global Marketing for Zune at Microsoft. "With the combination of subscription, wireless access to millions of tracks, and powerful discovery features like personal recommendations and the ability to buy music from FM radio, Zune is taking the digital music experience to the next level."
In addition, users can now access the Zune Marketplace music store directly from their device when they are in a recognized Wi-Fi hot spot, or through a home wireless network. Users can browse lists of featured new releases and top songs and albums sorted by genre, or use the on-screen keypad to type in the song of their choice. Once they have picked a track or album, they can either download it or stream it directly to the Zune device.
Zune customers can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass subscribers can download or stream music to the device or their computer interchangeably, all for a flat rate of $14.99 per month.
The Zune PC software is a free download at http://www.zune.net that provides discovery and media management capabilities, in addition to providing access to the Zune Social and Zune Marketplace so they can add to it.
Users can select an artist, album or Zune Card to activate a dynamic, visual mosaic of related music and listeners. With each click users can take the view in a new direction, creating a fun, graphical way to discover new music.
The improved Now Playing view is more interactive and cinematic. Users can sit back and enjoy the combination of great artist imagery, colorful effects, bio information and data from the Zune online music community, all combined in a full-screen view.
A new firmware update will also improve the experience on the Zune device. In addition to the new wireless functionality, Zune will bring new features such as
two free games, "Hexic" and "Texas Hold ?Em," support for audiobooks, download and sync favorite books from the 50,000 titles available from over 600 publishers at audible.com and download content from sites powered by overdrive.com.
The 16-gigabyte Zune will be priced at $199 and the 120-gigabyte Zune has a price tag of $249.99. Microsoft already sells Zunes in 4GB, 8GB and 80GB sizes.