The early Wednesday morning Zune 2 announcement wasn’t a “lines outside the stores” kind of announcement and the second generation Zune turned out to be basically what had been leaked months before with a new flash-based player in 4 GB and 8 GB capacities as well as a new and improved 80 GB hard disk player. Comparing the new Zunes to comparable iPods, it’s obvious that Microsoft chose not to differentiate on price, but on features and then primarily Wi-Fi support which Apple only provides on the iPod Touch and not their standard line..
Even better, the Zune Wi-Fi support is finally be put to a useful purpose. Yes, the infamous Wi-Fi “squirting” of songs to fellow Zune users is still allowed and has even been improved so that the 3 permitted plays don’t time out after a week, but the real pony is that Wi-Fi can now be used to sync content with the user’s PC. This PC-centric view is in distinction to Apple’s iPod Touch which uses the Wi-Fi for direct Internet access to iTunes.
The Apple iPod fantasy scenario is apparently a user sitting in Starbucks wirelessly buying songs while the Microsoft Zune fantasy scenario seems to be a user sitting at his PC buying songs and wirelessly transferring them. In reality, I expect the predominant usage case is actually a user sitting at his computer ripping tunes from CDs, so I think Microsoft has a slight Wi-Fi advantage, although Apple certainly has a window on a Web future.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much unexpected in the announcement except the very pleasing fact that the original Zunes (“Zune 1″) will be upgraded via software update to have the same functionality (including Wi-Fi) as the Zune 2s. Additionally, the Microsoft accessories for Zune 1 and Zune 2 are interchangeable as well. You can’t keep that up for too many generations, but it is certainly nice for loyal customers and reinforces the view that the Zune 2 is what Microsoft would have launched a year ago if they had had enough time to do it right.