Microsoft faces an uphill struggle before its Zune player becomes a real iPod alternative, a report explains.

The Digital Music News Research Group reports that the Zune Marketplace software provided with Zunes (the Microsoft equivalent of iTunes that's designed to support Zune) is seeing few users actually installing the software.

According to the report a mere 0.22 per cent of computers had the Zune Marketplace software installed in December 2006. To put this into perspective the report helpfully reveals that iTunes installations stood at 26.59 per cent in the same month.

The report tracks the month-to-month global install base for leading digital music applications, including those related to paid downloads, subscriptions, music management, and file sharing.  The data is gathered from desktop monitoring of over 1.5 million PCs, and aggregated by media-monitoring firm BigChampagne.