Microsoft Paring Zune Line Down To Touchscreen HD

Updated: Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is betting the pot on the soon-to-launch Zune HD — at least when it comes its own devices. <a href="Paul Thurott reports that the company will be dropping the flash Zunes and its high-storage Zune 80 and 120 models for the new touchscreen models that go on sale Sept. 15. In addition to a slicker interface, the Zune HD also features HD Radio, full web browsing and, if you buy the right $90 accessory, HD video output. A little surprising with the emphasis on HD that the line so far is missing the larger capacity models.

Microsoft has been particularly adept at keeping a variety of Zune models in play, both through sales and software updates. I’ve got a query in about what the company will do now with updates for the existing models. (We have four in the household dating back to the original Zune 30 (yes, it’s brown) so not an idle question.)

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson says the company will continue software updates on the earlier models. While the form factor has changed since launch, earlier versions included features like wireless buying that could be activated by software. The Zune HD will be the first model to vary dramatically in terms of capability so its device-specific software won’t be downwardly compatible. Music management on the PC will be the same for all devices. As for the large capacity, Microsoft says consumer behavior suggested most users didn’t need that much storage.