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Microsoft unveils Zune digital media player (images)

Attempting to lure the spotlight from Apple Computer and its new line of digital media products, Microsoft Corp. on Thursday officially unveiled its upcoming Zune digital media player to the media.

Calling it the "next big milestone" for connected entertainment, the world's largest software maker said Zune will feature 30GB of hard disk storage and come in three colors: white, black, —and we kid you not —brown.

The device will also include wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a 3-inch screen when it goes on sale later this holiday season. Zune users will be able to share content wirelessly with other Zune users and purchase new content from the "Zune Marketplace."

"The digital music entertainment revolution is just beginning," said J Allard, vice president, design and development, at Microsoft, who is leading the charge for building the family of Zune products. "With Zune, we are not simply delivering a portable device, we are introducing a new platform that helps bring artists closer to their audiences and helps people find new music and develop new social connections."

Microsoft said each Zune will come preloaded with content from record labels such as DTS, EMI Music's Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company will also make available three accessory packs to "help Zune users enjoy their music where they want to, at home or on the road." A Zune "Car Pack" will include a car charger, while a "Home A/V Pack" will combine an AV output cable, dock, sync cable, AC adapter and wireless dock remote. The third kit, dubbed "Zune Travel Pack" will offer "premium" earphones, a dual connect remote, a gear bag, sync cable and AC adapter.

Microsoft's Zune digital media player

Microsoft also said it is working with leading accessory manufacturers —including Altec Lansing, Belkin, DLO, Dual Electronics, Griffin Technology, Harman Kardon and JBL —to provide consumers with additional options "to customize and personalize their Zune experience."

"In addition to the features available at launch, built-in wireless technology and powerful software provide a strong foundation to continue to build new shared experiences around music and video," the company said. "As Zune evolves, the device can be easily updated. The Zune software on your PC will let you know when these updates are available for download."

Microsoft, which faces an uphill battle in catching up with Apple's iPod, has yet to provide a firm launch date for the device. So far, analysts on Wall Street have downplayed Zune, calling it a "repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat player" that stands to offer more bark than bite.