Microsoft unveils its response to iPod


September 15, 2006|By Jesus Sanchez | Jesus Sanchez,Los Angeles Times

Microsoft yesterday unveiled its portable Zune music and video player and an online music store that is aimed at challenging Apple Computer's iPod player and iTunes service, which dominate the digital music field.

The Zune, which can store 30 gigabytes of sound and video files, will come in a black, brown or white case with a 3-inch screen and a built-in FM tuner, which the iPod lacks.

Microsoft said the product would be available in time for the holidays, but it did not release a specific date or price in its statement.

The device, the first of a family of hardware and software products under the new Zune brand, represents a fundamental shift for the software giant.

Until now, Microsoft has created the underlying technology on which other portable devices and services operate.

But the company has been unable to gain ground in the digital music marketplace by following this time-honored strategy of making the software that enables other companies to design portable players and services.

With Zune, Microsoft elected to follow the strategy it pursued when it launched the Xbox video game console to challenge the established leader, the Sony PlayStation, by creating products under a separate brand and controlling the design of the hardware, software and service.

Microsoft faces an uphill fight to challenge iPod and iTunes.

Apple has claimed about 70 percent of the digital music market by seamlessly tying its iPod music player to its iTunes software and online store, making it easy for music fans to buy songs, organize them into playlists and transfer them to the portable device.

In addition to the Zune player, the company will launch Zune Marketplace, where users can browse and purchase songs individually or download as many tracks as they want for a flat fee, Microsoft said.

Jesus Sanchez writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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