Microsoft's Zune digital media player will ship in the US on 14 November and cost $249.99, the company said on Thursday, matching the price of Apple's video iPods.

Microsoft announced its Zune player and the accompanying music store, called Zune Marketplace, earlier this month, but it did not provide pricing at the time. Some industry insiders believe Microsoft had to rethink the pricing after Apple lowered the price of its video iPods. Like the entry-level video iPod, the first Zune players will come with 30GB of storage. Apple also sells an 80GB iPod.

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, Microsoft said. 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 a bit 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.

The Zune player will include wireless technology and a built-in FM radio tuner. So far, iPods lack both of those (Apple's iPod Radio Remote ships seperately). Zune devices also will come preloaded with media content, mostly songs from up-and-coming acts the labels hope to promote through the device.

Microsoft didn't provide any availability information for outside of the US.