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Microsoft Corp. has slashed pricing of its Zune digital media player by 20% a little ahead of Apple’s roll-out of the new iPod players. The world’s largest software maker expects the new price-point to attract attention of potential customers, but since the device has been on the market for about a year, to really get new adopters Microsoft may need new devices, not just a price reduction.

“It’s part of the normal product lifecycle, something we’ve had on the books for months,” said Cesar Menendez, a Microsoft employee responsible for the official Zune blog.

According to Microsoft, those, who have purchased Zune digital media players are happy with their devices. Even though, according to NPD, Microsoft Zune only commanded 3% of digital media players market, whereas Apple held 71% market share, Microsoft now hopes that $199 price-point  will help Zune to become more popular.

“We just got some research back and customer satisfaction with the 30GB device is really high (around 94%) and we expect even more consumers will now want to discover the Zune experience at the new lower price,” Mr. Mendez said.

Currently the most popular digital media player is sleek and slim Apple iPod nano, which is based on flash memory and cannot boast with feature-set similar to Microsoft Zune. However, being very small and easy to use, the iPod nano is by far more popular compared to rather bulky Zune. To make the things ever worse for Microsoft, Apple unveiled new iPod classic at $249 with 80GB hard drive as well as iPod touch with large screen, 8GB of flash memory and $299 price-point. Despite of not being direct competitors to Zune at $199, they compliment Apple’s tiny iPod nano with more advanced technology offerings, meaning that a single Zune competes against the top-to-bottom product families of Apple and Creative Technology.

Microsoft’s Zune player is available in three colours with a duotone approach on each. The device has a 3” screen, contain a 30GB hard disk drive as well as some functionality, not currently available on competing products, such as Apple iPod or Creative Zen, including ad-hoc music sharing between a group of people in the range of the device, FM as well as digital radio, thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity.

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