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Microsoft considers extending Zune services to Apple users

Some services currently exclusive to Microsoft's Zune platform, such as subscription music downloads, could be extended to Apple products like the iPod in the future, a new report has suggested.

Jose Pinero, director of communications for Microsoft's TV, Video and Music Business, told Mary-Jo Foley of ZDNet that his company is considering whether to port Zune software and services to other platforms, like those offered by Apple. In addition to the Zune HD hardware, Microsoft also creates accompanying software for purchasing and playback of music, as well as syncing with the device. Such software is not currently available for Mac, nor does it sync with the iPod for Windows users.

Pinero declined to elaborate on whether any potential expansion could allow Zune subscriptions to be synced with the iPod, though Foley noted that her Zune Pass subscription works with a Sony Walkman MP3 player. It's also possible that the Zune desktop media player could be ported to the Mac.

"We are evaluating a lot of options in terms of platforms," was all Pinero said.

Yet another possible option could be an iPhone/iPod touch application. Rhapsody's App Store offering currently allows subscribers to stream its music library to their handheld device.

Mac and Linux users can already stream music from a browser as part of the new Zune 4.0 software, if they have a Zune Pass subscription. For $14.99 per month, customers can also choose 10 songs per month to keep forever, even after the subscription is canceled. It is currently only available in North America.

Though it has been rumored numerous times over the years, iTunes does not currently offer an "all you can eat" subscription music service like Zune Pass. Such plans from Microsoft and Rhapsody charge a flat monthly rate to allow access to the entire catalog of music, and that content remains accessible on a computer and portable media players as long as the subscription is in good standing.

After launching last month, the Zune HD garnered mostly positive reviews, praising its slick design and compelling features like Wi-Fi syncing and HD radio. Microsoft has said it intends to release at least one more update to the Zune hardware, but beyond that, it views the market as mostly a software and services platform.

"So what would it mean to take the Zune experience to Apple users?" Foley asked. "Simply make it easier for iPods/iTouch devices to connect to Zune Pass and to run the Zune software? I didn’t get any more specifics from Pinero."