Microsoft Sings a New Zune

It’s hard to imagine anyone reading the reports of the second generation of Microsoft’s Zune audio player and deciding it should go at the top of their Christmas wish list.

Sure, Microsoft will sell some. They have global distribution, infinite money for marketing and a brand that, to many, is credible, if not cool.

Microsoft has chosen not to compete on price, matching Apple’s price points for devices of the same size. (That is, flashy players with 4 gigabytes for $149 and 8 gigabytes for $199, and an 80-gigabyte hard drive player for $249.) That’s probably wise in the long run. Microsoft isn’t a brand that should rely on discounting. Microsoft includes a Wi-Fi connection on these models, while Apple charges $100 more for its Wi-Fi enabled iPod Touch series.

From the specs and early reviews, the new Zunes are solid, with better software and other features that improve on the first generations, which fared poorly in the market. There’s a bigger screen, a social networking site and a bit more you can do with the built in Wi-Fi connection. Frankly, feature for feature, it gives the iPod Classic — Apple’s hard drive model — a run for its money. But the flash models can’t compete on fashion with Apple’s Nano and Shuffle. And despite being in the market with a Wi-Fi player a year ahead of Apple, Microsoft hasn’t been able to match the innovation in the Touch: the Safari browser and Wi-Fi music store, not to mention the touch-screen interface.