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Zune HD Coming in September, Priced to Compete

For media-hungry Microsoft fans waiting for the new Zune HD music players to arrive, the wait is nearly over. What's more, the pricing and the availability date for at least two of the new units both leaked out this week.

According to gadget blog Gizmodo, the new Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Zune HD models will cost $219.99 for the 16GB unit and $289.99 for the 32GB version. The blog said it had received information leaked from both retail giant Best Buy and Amazon.com.

Amazon prematurely though briefly put up a Zune HD pre-order page that displayed the pricing. Although the page was taken down quickly, it wasn't before Gizmodo grabbed a screen capture.

The prices shown on that page match ones shown on what appear to be screen shots of a Best Buy inventory page, which were also leaked, according to Gizmodo.

Additionally, the Best Buy screen shots display an availability date of September 8, well before the "fall" delivery schedule that Microsoft has been giving out -- though that could be the date for the start of the pre-order sales.

"We don't comment on rumors and speculation," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com.

The original Zune players debuted in November 2006 but didn't capture the public's imagination and take off immediately as Microsoft had hoped. Now, it is trying again -- this time lining up the iPod Touch in its sights.

Microsoft's forthcoming Zune HDs aim to take on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) popular iPod Touch with both a similar feature set and lower pricing. The company confirmed in May that the new units will feature a built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet browser.

For instance, Amazon.com offers the 16GB iPod Touch for $274.95 and the 32GB unit for $369. Still, at least one analyst thinks that neither features nor price will attract the iPod faithful.

"The challenge that Zune HD faces is it doesn't matter what the feature sets is because Apple has dominance," Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner told InternetNews.com.

Microsoft will likely attract customers who already have older Zunes and like the company's music subscription service. Additionally, the aggressive pricing will help some -- but only some.

"The price will make it more attractive but is it enough to cause a customer shift? I don't think so," Baker added.