In a slew of firsts for Microsoft’s answer to the iPod Touch, Zune will become a gaming device and will go HD on Tuesday, and it will start renting and selling movies alongside the TV shows it already rents.
The upgrades are part of an initiative to make Zune “the entertainment brand for Microsoft, for music and video,” said Brian Seitz, group marketing manager for Zune.
The new HD Zune will sell for $220 to $290, depending on the memory. Users can sync content they purchase or rent from the Zune Marketplace for playback on an HD TV screen.
In the fall, said Seitz, Zune will take over as the video marketplace of Xbox Live, with their catalogues merged.
On Monday, the marketplace at Zune.net was shut down for maintenance. When it’s back up, it will contain lots of extra niceties not there previously, Seitz said.
The Zune HD also seeks to make browsing for content easier with features dubbed Quickplay and Smart DJ.
A calculator, weather application and casual games are being added and, later, Twitter for Zune and Facebook for Zune are coming, as are 3D games.