Microsoft's competitor to Apple's iPod reaches US stores today.
However, though Zune made it out the door before Windows Vista and Microsoft Office, analysts don't foresee Zune will take a big chunk out of iPod's popularity with holiday buyers.
The 30GB media player will cost $249.99 and be available Tuesday in more than 30,000 retail outlets in the US, including Circuit City and Best Buy stores. Zune players cost the same amount as the video iPods currently available from Apple, and play videos, music and can display photos. Zune Marketplace, an online music purchasing and download service, also will be available on Tuesday.
Analysts initially don't think Zune will have much of an effect on iPod sales. A research report by financial firm Piper Jaffray released Monday predicted there would be little "near-term impact" on iPod sales from Zune's launch, and said Zune's key differentiators - an FM receiver and wireless capability that allows users to pass songs between devices - likely won't draw customers away from the IPod.
"While the FM receiver is one of the most highly requested features for the iPod, we believe the Zune's most talked about differentiator, wireless sharing with other Zunes, will not turn out to be a significant selling point," analysts wrote in the research note.
Moreover, Piper Jaffray predicts that Zune will likely have no impact on iPod market share in the next six months "unless Microsoft starts a massive marketing effort within the next few weeks," according to the note.
Microsoft did attempt to get the word out on Zune with a launch party and concert in Seattle, featuring a band called The Secret Machines.
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, but won't actually own those songs. Users also can buy songs individually using Microsoft's points system.
One track on the Zune Marketplace will cost 79 points - or about $0.99, which is what Apple also charges per song on iTunes. Beginning Tuesday 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.