Microsoft to drop all Zune models except for HD

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With the Zune HD nearing its September 15 debut, Microsoft has confirmed today that the touch screen device will be the sole member of its media player lineup going forward. The original Zune in both its flash-based (4GB, 8GB and 16GB) and hard drive models (80GB and 120GB) will continue to be available at retail until sold out.

Launched in November 2006, the ill-fated media player has failed to make any significant headway against Apple's iPod, but Microsoft has high hopes this time around. Priced at $220 and $290 for the 16 and 32GB models, respectively, the revamped device features a large touch screen, HD radio, HD video-out capabilities, Nvidia Tegra graphics and an Internet browser among its top selling points. It's also meant to rival the iPod touch with third-party applications and games.

Microsoft's decision to focus only on the Zune HD is likely meant to cut losses at the low end of the spectrum, where Apple should continue to reign with no-frills alternatives like the iPod nano and shuffle starting at $79. Redmond also plans to launch an update to its Zune software when the Zune HD becomes available, noting that it will be compatible with older devices but remaining mum on the details.

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