Microsoft has updated its answer to the iPod, the Zune, with an HD touchscreen media player, an update to the Zune PC software, and the ability to buy or rent movies through the Zune Marketplace online store.
The Zune HD, priced at $219.99 for the black 16GB version, $289.99 for the platinum 32GB version, allows for storage and playback in 720p HD video and can connect to an HDTV using the Zune HD AV dock accessory.
The Zune 4.0 software allows users to rent movies for approximately $6 (480 Microsoft Points) for new-release high-definition movies, $4 (320 Microsoft Points) for new-release standard-definition movies, $4.50 (360 Microsoft Points) for library HD movies and $3 (240 Microsoft Points) for library SD movies. Movie downloads cost $19.99 (1,600 Microsoft Points) for new-release HD titles, $14.99 (1,200 Microsoft Points) for new-release SD titles, $17.99 (1,440 Microsoft Points) for library HD titles and $17.99 (1,440 Microsoft Points) for library HD titles.
TV episodes will cost $2.99 (240 Microsoft Points) for HD and $1.99 (160 Microsoft Points) for SD. Meanwhile, a new streaming music service for $14.99 a month allows users to stream songs and albums from Zune.net.
The first phase of the new Microsoft Zune video service rolled out yesterday with Microsoft's launch of the Zune HD portable music and video player.
Zune users can now buy TV shows and rent or buy digital movies for playback on the updated portable device.
Later this fall, the Zune Marketplace will be available on the Xbox 360, replacing the Xbox Live Marketplace and allowing users to move content between the Zune, Xbox and PC.
That's something the company touted in its announcement yesterday, with Enrique Rodriguez, Microsoft corporate VP of TV, video and music business, calling it a comprehensive entertainment service that's no longer tied to any one screen or device.
The new touch-screen Zune also can be connected to an HDTV with a Zune HD AV Dock add-on to play back any of those videos in 720p high-definition resolution.
Personaly I do not want to buy individual episodes for such a high price when many of them are free on netflix. If they get a netflix streaming app for the zune hd (which I expect to happen less than a year from now) I will go buy one the day that comes out.