Ahead of an expected new *Apple* iPod Nano launch tomorrow at an event, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has announced a new version of Zune, and some new interesting features.
— In the latest versions, it is expanding the hard drive-based model to 120GB and the flash-based player to 16GB, with new colors blue-on-silver and all-black color schemes. Prices: $249 for the 120GB model, $199 for the 16GB model and $149 for the 8GB flash model
— The new devices launch next week, and and older versions will get a free software upgrade.
— The more interesting part: it has added Wi-Fi to the player, where users can stream or download the songs on the go through the Zune store. With a subscription Zune Pass, at $14.99 per month, users will be able to listen to 3 million songs as long as they are within a Wi-Fi zone.
— Also, users will be able to tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio service on the player, if Wi-Fi is within range. If Wi-Fi is not available, the device will have a queue of songs ready to download when connected to a home computer or in a hot spot.
— Zune will add games: it will come with two games–Hexic and Texas Hold ’em–and adds support for audio books in the *Audible* format (now owned by Amazon).
Zune was first with some “social” music-swapping capabilities when it first launched, but without critical mass, it went nowhere. Now Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPod Touch has Wi-Fi capabilities (though download only, not streaming, at least form iTunes), so Zune again comes out as a me-too on that feature. Sandisk’s Sansa Connect and Haier’s Ibiza Rhapsody have already launched with the same Wi-Fi capabilities. More details in release.