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Friday, July 21, 2006, 08:00 pm PT (11:00 pm ET)

Microsoft confirms plans for iPod rival

Microsoft Corp. on Friday confirmed that it's working on music and entertainment products that will compete with Apple Computer's iPod digital music players and iTunes jukebox software.

In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, the Redmond, Wash.-based software developer said it will release the first of the hardware and software products, dubbed "Zune," later this year.

The statement confirms several months of speculation on the subject that began earlier this year after reports surfaced that the company had been briefing music industry executives on the project and showing prototypes.

While Microsoft has reportedly refused to provide any details beyond its simple statement, Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg told the AP that he received confirmation from the company that it would release a wireless device that would play both music and video this year.

According to Gartenberg, the device will have an accompanying content service.

The move is expected to pit Microsoft against several of its own partners, including Creative Technology and Samsung, which are already using its software for their own players.