Microsoft is getting ready to launch its new Zune HD portable media player on September 15, but the company has opened pre-orders for the device, letting Zune fans plunk down some dollars for the privilege of being one of the first people to have a Zune HD when they’re available. Customers can pre-order the devices in 16 and 32 GB capacities through Microsoft itself, as well as through retailers like Wal-mart, Best Buy, and Amazon.com. The 16 GB black version is priced at $219.99, while the Platinum 32 GB edition is priced at $289.99.
When the units go on sale September 15, they will be available in five colors with 10 optional engraving designs.
The Zune HD sports an integrated HD Radio receiving, 720p high-definition video output, an a 3.3-inch 480 by 272-pixel OLED touch screen display. The units also sport integrated Wi-Fi that enables users to stream and purchase music from the Zune Marketplace, as well as surf the Web via an integrated Web browser. The Zune HD also marks the first consumer product sporting Nvidia‘s Tegra low-power graphics processor.
Microsoft is pushing the Zune HD as a competitor to the iPod touch, although it remains to be seen whether the Zune HD will be able to offer applications and gaming capabilities that can compete with Apple’s already well-established developer community and market momentum. Microsoft’s Zune devices were originally heralded as an iPod killer when they first came out, but the devices have yet to capture significant market momentum—in fact, the biggest drain on iPod sales is Apple itself, as its iPhone and iPod touch lines cut into traditional iPod sales. However, Microsoft plans to put the Zune line in the center of its entertainment and media universe, further integrating with services like the successful Xbox Live Marketplace and media-oriented features in Windows…and that might be enough to make the Zune HD a compelling portable media device for many consumers.