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Microsoft Intros Flash Zunes

Seattle — Microsoft introduced last night two slimmed-down Zune portable media players and a new social networking beta site called Zune Social.

The new Zunes have a touchscreen that responds to “thumb flicks” to scroll through lists of songs or videos. Users press on the screen for pause, volume and other commands. They also can sync over their wireless home network when the Zune is placed in a cradle with an AC adaptor. A third, 80GB Zune with a standard 3.2-inch screen was also introduced at an estimated retail price of $249.99.

With the original Zune, users could share songs with friends but those songs would expire within a certain time limit. Now shared songs can be listened to up to three times by the recipient without a time limit. In addition, the Zune can now import TVs and movies recorded on a PC with Windows Media Center or Vista Home Premium or Ultimate for viewing on the go.

The new Zunes come in 4GB and 8GB versions at suggested retails of $149 and $199, respectively, and are available in pink green, black and glossy red.

Microsoft’s Zune Social beta online community lets people create favorite song profiles on a “Zune Card” that can, in the future, be imported into other social network sites. The card also shows the most recent songs listened to, and observers can play samples of songs on the card or link to Zune Marketplace to buy them.

Microsoft has a unit market share of 3 percent in portable media players compared to Apple’s 70 percent share, according to The NPD Group’s second-quarter figures.