Microsoft announced Thursday that its new Zune media player — likened by some industry experts and analysts as a potential iPod killer — will go on sale for $249.99 when it
debuts on November 14th. The Zune features a color display and 30GB of storage capacity — the same amount of space as an equivalently-priced iPod.
The Zune’s companion music download service will charge users 99 cents per song, the same as Apple’s iTunes Store pricing model. But there are a few key differences: Microsoft plans to use the same transaction system as Xbox Live, its video game console’s online service, which will allow consumers to pay for music using prepaid cards they can buy in retail stores — saving some the hassle of needing to use a credit card.
What’s more, Microsoft will offer the Zune Pass, a subscription-based service that will let users listen to any of the songs on the music service for $14.99 per month. iTunes Store competitors that use Windows Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology including Napster and RealNetworks have attempted similar subscription-based services. As it stands now, the iTunes Store lacks a subscription option.
Other features present in the Zune — to be
manufactured by Toshiba — that are absent from the iPod are a built-in FM tuner and pre-loaded content — the device will ship with more than two dozen songs already installed on the hard disk. The Zune also features wireless technology that will let Zune users share favorite music, playlists and digital pictures with each other.