Next week, Microsoft will release new Zune firmware, Zune software as well as new Zune hardware. The announcement actually came out yesterday, just ahead of Apple’s own iPod announcement today.
The most interesting feature, called Buy from FM, will let customers identify songs played on FM radio stations and buy them directly from their Zune via Wi-Fi. Buy from FM uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies that identify song and artist data and enable the Zune service to identify and deliver the track to the customer. The Zune Marketplace will also be accessible via Wi-Fi, allowing customers to download or stream tracks directly to their Zune.
The new Zune firmware will also add two free games (Hexic and Texas Hold ‘Em) and support for audiobooks.
The new Zune software will also add new Channels. Some will be programmed by music industry experts (the Billboard Top 100, The FADER magazine and KEXP radio, for example) while others will be based on a user’s favourite artists and genres. Like iTunes 8 unveiled earlier today, it will also make personal recommendations using an algorithm that uses music and channels a listener likes.
Microsoft is also expanding the Zune family with new 16GB flash and 120GB hard drive models. Prices will start at USD$129.99 for the 4GB model, USD$149.99 for the 8GB model and the new 16GB model will sell for USD$199.00. The 80GB Zune will sell for USD$229.99 and the new 120GB one for USD$249.99.
All this Zune goodness arrives on September 16th.