Having abandoned the Plays4Sure initiative and deciding to go head to head with Apple/iTunes (though it will be more likely to cannabalise other Windows-based services), Microsoft has belatedly released details of its much-vaunted Zune project.

From mid-November in the US and likely April in the UK, Zune will ship for an iPod-matching $250 for a 30Gb capacity device that will allow wirless connectivity for Zune-to-Zune sharing, but not Zune-to-Zune-to-Zune sharing, picture galleries, videos and a built-in FM tuner and will come in black, white and, err, brown.

A volume of content will come pre-loaded and that will be songs, videos and film shorts from various sources and will focus on new artists. For exmaple, from 14 November, you’ll get Darkel, Hot Chip and Small Sins. The mirror service, the Zune marketplace will function much like the iPod/iTunes relationship but with the added subscription service available for $14.99 a month. Individual purchases will be made through Microsoft Points in an attempt to draw the younger non-credit card carrying music fan and is the same system already in place and working well for Microsoft’s xBox and its 10 million users, well Zune is run by the same guy as ran xBox!

Again mirroring the iPod,there will be a range of Zune accessories.

The official word is: “On Nov. 14 we’re delivering not only a device, but a shared, social experience that will be shaped by the collective imagination of consumers,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune. “We’re infusing the spirit of discovery and sharing into everything we do — from the experience we crafted around the device and service to pre-loading music and videos on every device to expose people to something new.”

External analysts aren’t being bullish about the Zune’s chances and point to the possibility that MS will take a $50 hit for every Zune sold.

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