About those new Zunes (yes, plural)

As noted in our Monday update to the Zune story here on Backstage, Microsoft did in fact hold a day-long event to preview new Zune technology to developers. During that event, the company put an image of the iLounge web site up on a big screen and, we’re told, hassled the developers there for leaking Zune information to us (and presumably others). When our mid-day update appeared, noting that the preview event was underway, that apparently caused another fuss.

That aside, here’s what we’ve heard: Microsoft apparently previewed more than one upcoming Zune at the event. The one that people expected – a flash memory-based Zune – is definitely coming. But it’s physically larger than the iPod nano, and apparently not anything amazing: ‘not bad’ is how we’ve heard it described. If you liked the last Zune but wanted something smaller and with less storage capacity, that’s the flash Zune.

The surprise was the preview of an updated hard drive-based Zune. We’ve heard that it will have a bigger display (yes, this surprised us, too) and most likely additional storage capacity, matching higher-end full-sized iPods as the prior Zune matched the lower-end ones. Our guess is that this is Microsoft’s response to the oft-mentioned iPhone dilemma: “great video screen, but how do I store more than 4 movies on it?”

Release dates or prices? We don’t know them yet. If history’s any guide, they’ll be priced at roughly the same prices as peer iPods, and show up a few months from now. Whether or not they make a splash is anyone’s guess at this point.