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July 31, 2006

Microsoft’s Zune to launch November 14?

Posted by David Hunter at 7:16 PM ET.

Engadget has the rumor du jour:

The juicier bits, however, are that we can all expect to find out some hard information from Microsoft in August, and that the player is slated to launch on November 14th, right in time for the holiday buying season (what a huge surprise).

There’s more there and if you haven’t been keeping up with the Zune news, I see that the Zune News Site has an (unofficial) FAQ that collects the latest buzz.

Microsoft is going to have to stand in line for a piece of the iPod action though, since there seem to be so many others trying for the same market mojo. Today, Verizon Wireless jumped in with their “Chocolate” cell phone and music player:

With its circular scroll pad, the device looks like Apple Computer’s iPod MP3 player, adding another player to an increasingly crowded market. Microsoft announced July 21 it would soon release a digital music player called Zune.

Verizon’s Chocolate will probably differ from both products in that it uses wireless links both to download and to play music, supporting a Bluetooth-enabled headset. The device also doubles as a cell phone, with 3G (third-generation) features like games, music videos, television clips, GPS (global positioning system) navigation and a camera.

No word on a kitchen sink, but that’s the rub with these multipurpose phones – they may do everything a little bit, but they do nothing really well – except phone calls, I guess.

Though the sleek new phone is pleasing to the eye, and, at $249 with a one-year contract, not terribly expensive, analysts aren’t expecting Chocolate and other cell phone MP3 players currently on the market to make much of a dent in Apple’s dominance in the mobile music arena. In fact, some see such devices, which have far less storage capacity than iPods, as complementary devices rather than competitors, allowing people to have a few songs with them at all times — since people are rarely without their cell phones these days — even as they leave their iPods at home.

Nonetheless, this trend certainly bears watching, since cell phone makers are undoubtedly trying to provide an all-in-one mobile device that would make iPods superfluous. Both Cingular Wireless and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S – News) offer handsets that can store music as well, but Apple has also dabbled in cell phones. The company has a partnership with Motorola (NYSE: MOT – News), whose SLVR phone — available to Cingular subscribers — runs Apple’s iTunes software.

At the same time, it’s long been rumored that Apple intends to develop an iPod-branded phone of its own.

And Steve Ballmer has hinted that Microsoft would like to play in the musical phone market too.

Filed under Apple, Argo, Coopetition, Microsoft, Verizon, Zune

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