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Microsoft Unveils Zune Media Player, Zune Marketplace

Following earlier confirmation by Microsoft concerning its new Zune line of portable entertainme...
Following earlier confirmation by Microsoft concerning its new Zune line of portable entertainment devices, the company today unveiled its Zune media player, an all-in-one portable device that seems positioned to directly compete against Apple's iPod. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Microsoft first plans to release a 30-gigabyte model, which will feature a three-inch screen and include a built-in FM tuner. The device is expected to ship later this year, and will come in black, brown or white. While Microsoft did not confirm an exact price for the device, Apple's 30-gigabyte iPod currently retails for $249. Interestingly, Microsoft employee Cesar Menendez, who runs a Zune-focused blog and who has referred to Zune as “Microsoft’s new, holistic approach to music and entertainment,” commented today in his most recent post that the device is the next step in what Microsoft is calling "connected entertainment." Describing what this means, Menendez added: “Take MySpace, YouTube, Xbox Live, and every cool record store on the planet. Then add 1000 of your closest friends, and make it all accessible though a little device in your pocket. That’s what we’re doing with Zune.” In addition, while Apple earlier this week announced the launch of its new iTunes Store, which will include users of fifth generation iPods to browse and download games, Microsoft also views the Zune as a way to connect users with other Microsoft hardware, such as the Xbox 360 and PCs running Windows. To date, Microsoft has neither officially confirmed nor denied how its Zune brand might be used to enter into the portable games sector, though it has been quoted as saying the "potential" existed for the foreseeable future. Today's announcement made no mention of games functionality, instead focusing on the devices' media capabilities and the Zune Marketplace, where users will be able to browse and purchase individual songs, or download music in bulk for as as-yet unannounced fee, according to the report. “With Xbox Live, we created a world of connected gamers,” commented Menendez in his blog. “With Zune, we’re creating a world of connected music fans.”

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