Zune HD Pre-Orders Begin at Prices Below iPod

Zune HD

Microsoft confirmed pricing for its new line of Zune HD media players Thursday, making it clear that it intends to renew its battle against the Apple iPod by undercutting its rival.

The Zune HD will cost $219.99 for a 16GB unit and $289.99 for the 32GB version.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant also revealed that consumers can begin pre-ordering its forthcoming media player at Amazon.com, Best Buy, Walmart and Microsoft as of Thursday.

Deliveries of the new Zune will begin Sept. 15, the same day the players become available for sale in stores, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said in a statement.

In both price and design, the new units aim to compete head-to-head with the iPod Touch. For one thing, 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.

In May, Microsoft confirmed 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.

Still, some analysts have doubted that the Zune’s pricing will be enough to encourage the iPod faithful to abandon their Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) units.

Details of the Zune HD’s pricing appeared earlier in the week in a leak reported by tech blog Gizmodo. However, Gizmodo’s information about the actual “General Availability” (GA) date for the units was off by a week.

Earlier in the week, Amazon briefly — and prematurely — put up a Zune HD pre-order page that displayed the pricing. Although Amazon quickly took down the page, it wasn’t before Gizmodo grabbed a screen capture. Later, Gizmodo also acquired screen shots purportedly from within Best Buy that showed what turned out to be the incorrect GA date.

At that time, a Microsoft spokesperson repeated the company’s traditional mantra that it doesn’t comment “on rumors and speculation.”

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