Microsoft hardware: Zune HD prices confirmed, Xbox price cut rumors

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about rumored pricing for the new Zune HD. Oh wait, it was yesterday. Well now Microsoft has made the launch date and prices official. September 15th is the launch date, the black 16 GB Zune HD will retail for $219.99, and the platinum 32 GB for $289.99. You can pre-order a Zune HD right now from Amazon or the Microsoft store (16GB, 32GB) or later today from Best Buy or Walmart. (If you want to learn more about the NVIDIA Tegra that powers the Zune HD, check out this Ars Technica post.)

So as long as you're giving Microsoft money, you might think now is the time to get yourself that Xbox 360 you've been dreaming of. Given that the Xbox Video Marketplace is going to be rebranded the Zune Marketplace, it stands to reason that there's going to be some degree of interaction between the Zune HD and the 360, right?

Well in fact now would be a very bad time to buy a 360, based on a leaked catalog scan posted on Kotaku. It shows an image from a Meijer catalog showing the Xbox 360 Elite model prices at $299.99. That's the current price of the Xbox 360 Pro, and the catalog is said to be due out on August 30th, so we won't have to wait long for this new price.

The difference between the two Xbox systems is basically hard drive space. The Pro has a 60 GB drive, the Elite has 120 GB (the Elite also includes an HDMI cable while you have to provide your own with the Pro). With the new Games on Demand feature, the ability to install games to you hard drive (for faster, quieter loading) and now all this Zune video you're going to be buying, you'll want the extra hard drive space. According to an earlier rumor, the Pro model is being phased out completely, which makes sense given that Microsoft wants you to have lots of room so you can spend more money.

Lots of buzz for gadget lovers in the Microsoft camp. Will Apple respond to the Zune HD in any way? I'm thinking they'll cut the price of the iPod Touch to match the Zune HD in GB-to-GB comparisons: bring the 16 GB Touch down to $220, and possibly drop the 8 GB model. And of course that iTablet is floating around the rumor-verse somewhere. On the gaming side, it's time for Sony to make some noise around its all-but-certainly-real PS3 Slim, and roll it out with a nice price cut.

UPDATE: Engadget reports on a whole range of Zune HD colors beyond black and platinum.

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