Microsoft's Zune to ship Nov 14 at US$249

Microsoft's Zune to ship Nov 14 at US$249

Mid-November US shipping date for Microsoft’s Zune

Microsoft’s Zune digital media player will ship in the US on 14 November for US$249.99 — that’s in line with the price of video iPods already available from Apple.

Microsoft announced its Zune player and the accompanying music store, called Zune Marketplace, in September, but it did not provide pricing at the time. Some industry insiders believe Microsoft had to rethink the pricing after it learned Apple was about to lower the price of its video iPods, which it recently did. Like the video iPods, the first Zune players will come with 30GB of storage.

Microsoft also unveiled pricing for Zune Marketplace. Unlike Apple’s iTunes, which lets users buy individual songs or entire albums but does not offer a subscription service, Microsoft will offer a monthly subscription called Zune Pass. For $14.99 a month, users will have access to millions of songs, says Microsoft. However, they won’t actually own those songs and will only be able to access them while they have a subscription.

Users will also be able to purchase songs individually using Microsoft’s points system, which works like a prepaid phone card. One track will cost 79 points, or about $0.99, which is what iTunes charges per song. At retail, consumers can purchase 1,200 points for $15; 2,000 points for $25; 4,000 points for $50; or pay $44.97 for a three-month Zune Pass.

Zune accessories will range in price from $19.99 to $99.99. They include the Zune Car Pack, which offers a built-in FM tuner with AutoSeek and the Zune Car Charger; and The Zune Home A/V Pack, which includes five products that integrate Zune with a television and music speakers.

Microsoft plans to differentiate its Zune player from the iPod in several ways. In addition to allowing users to play music, videos and photos on a screen, the Zune player will include wireless technology and a built-in FM radio tuner. So far, iPod users must use third party products for these features.

Zune devices also will come preloaded with media content, which iPods don’t have. The players will include songs out of the box by relatively unknown artists. The music videos included with the Zune player are from several artists on Seattle’s Sub Pop Records label, such as Chad VanGaalen, Kinski and the Fruit Bats. The players also will include film shorts on skateboarding, mountain biking and snowboarding.

Microsoft hasn’t yet provided any information on availability outside of the US.

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