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News   - 09/14/2006

Microsoft unwraps Zune for holiday season

Microsoft took the wraps off its Zune media player on Thursday, though what's underneath is largely what enthusiasts had come to expect.

The device, which the company anticipates will be ready in time for the holidays, will come in three colors and be capable, via its built-in Wi-Fi, of sharing full-length songs with other nearby Zune devices, the software giant said. As had been revealed through regulatory filings, it includes a 30GB hard drive as well as a 3-inch screen. The Zune will come in black, brown and white, but the company has declined to reveal any pricing information.

With the Zune, Microsoft is chasing Apple and its iconic music player, the iPod, which has thus far eclipsed all challengers. For Microsoft to mount a serious campaign against Apple--which has sold more than 60 million iPods in five years--the Zune has to offer compelling features that the iPod lacks, analysts say. This gets harder and harder to do with Apple's continuous upgrades of the iPod.

On Tuesday, Apple introduced a revamped 30GB video iPod that, while lacking wireless abilities or a larger screen, offers a brighter screen, longer battery life and a lower price tag ($249) than its predecessor. There had been a report last month that Microsoft was hoping to charge $299 for the Zune, Apple's then-price for the 30GB iPod. Microsoft declined on Thursday to detail Zune's price but said it will be revealed in coming weeks and will be competitive.

Scott Erickson, Microsoft's senior director of product management for Zune, said his device is different from the iPod, because it offers an alternative to the typical solitary music-listening experience.

Zune users can send full-length tracks of select songs, homemade recordings or photos to other Zune players via the device's Wi-Fi. The shared songs can be heard up to three times over three days.
Should a user like a song a friend has shared, the song can be flagged and later can be purchased from the Zune Marketplace. Not every song will be available to swap however, Erickson said. Artists can opt out, but fans will have access to the vast majority of titles, he added.

Source: News.com    
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