NEW YORK—In a year that saw the release of such best-selling products as the Motorola RAZR 2 V8 and the wildly popular Casio XD-SW4800 handheld dictionary, no personal electronics product launch was more highly anticipated than the November 13 debut of the second-generation Microsoft Zune mp3 player.

The sleek new Zune, whose record-breaking sales have made the Zune name synonymous with "mp3 player," was so sought-after that thousands formed long lines outside hip, minimalist Microsoft Stores across the country days before the device went on sale. In Midtown Manhattan, the hysteria reached such a fever pitch that some were willing to pay as much as $200 for a spot in line.

"How could you not want one?" said self-described "Microsoft fanatic" Maria Arkin, who, like many others scrambling to be among the first to get their hands on the new Zune, expressed disappointment upon learning that sales were limited to just two units per customer. "It's amazing. There's just nothing else like it on the market."

Arkin added, "Plus, it's small enough to fit in my pocket—right next to my cell phone!"

Even skeptics have found it difficult to deny the Zune's appeal. With its video capability, "squircle"-shaped control pad, Microsoft logo emblazoned on the back, and iconic black earbuds, it has become a must-have item for everyone from high-powered executives to trendy young scenesters. Many consumers consider owning the newest model of Zune to be the most essential status symbol of the past 10 years, hailing it as the hallmark fashion accessory of the so-called "Zune Generation."

"The second-generation Zune has it all," said Brian Lam, editor in chief of Gizmodo, a popular tech blog. "It's got a great design, and the cult of personality that the undeniably charismatic Bill Gates has created with his Microsoft product launches only adds to the Zune's desirability."

Though the Zune continues to dominate the world of personal electronics, technology experts believe it will quickly be overshadowed by the fall 2008 launch of the hotly anticipated new Texas Instruments TI-Nspire graphing calculator.