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Zune 3.0 to debut with 'extra value meal'

Software maker is set to release the latest version of its software on Tuesday and is announcing a pact for free Wi-Fi at McDonald's.

Microsoft, which is officially releasing its Zune 3.0 software on Tuesday, is also announcing a deal to give Zune owners free Wi-Fi access at McDonald's outlets.

The McDonald's deal is important because although every Zune has built-in Wi-Fi, the devices can only access free Wi-Fi hot spots that don't have a browser interrupt. That severely limits the types of public locations from which people can download songs wirelessly.

Many of the Zune's key new features, such as channels and "buy from FM" are most useful when Zune owners have access to a compatible Wi-Fi location. The McDonald's deal, struck with its Wi-Fi provider Wayport, adds nearly 10,000 places where people can access the Zune Marketplace store.

"Wayport is pleased to be working with Microsoft to make it easier for Zune users to access music on the go," Dan Lowden, vice president of business development and marketing for Wayport, said in a statement. "Our ability to enable and manage applications and devices over converged networks creates exciting new opportunities for our clients to attract new customers whose digital lifestyle extends beyond their home and office."

The revamped Zune software, as well as firmware updates for older players, is available for download. As for the new hardware, the Zune will come in 8GB ($149) and 16GB ($199) flash-based models and a 120GB hard-drive model ($249). The existing 4GB flash and 80GB hard-drive models are seeing price chops as Microsoft looks to clear out remaining inventory.