Microsoft to Bring Zune Software to a Larger World Audience

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Microsoft is rolling out its Zune desktop software that aims to compete with iTunes ahead of its expected launch of the Windows Phone 7 debut later this year. The software includes access to the Zune Marketplace for purchasing music, movies and TV shows, and will launch in more than 20 countries this fall. The Zune software will be an integral part of the Windows Phone 7 experience, and its rollout suggests we are getting closer to a launch date for Windows Phone 7.

Sync client

Similar to how Apple iTunes is the content hub for iOS devices including iPods, iPhones and the iPad, Windows Phone 7 devices will sync with Windows-based PCs via the Zune software.   You can use the Zune software to purchase television episodes, rent or purchase movies and download Windows Phone 7 apps through the Zune Marketplace. Music fans can also buy individual songs and albums through Zune, or you can pay $15 a month for Zune Pass, an unlimited music subscription service.

You will be able to access some Zune features, such as music, straight from your device; however, syncing will be required to transfer some content, videos for example, to your Windows Phone 7 device.

Windows Phone 7 launch rumors

Rumors in early September said Microsoft would launch Windows Phone 7 on October 11 during a press event in New York. Devices would start shipping later that month, according to Pocket-lint. There are also rumors that the Windows Phone 7 wouldn't be available until November 17, and may be available only on GSM networks at launch such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

Who gets what for the Zune?

Users in the United Kingdom and France will have complete access to all Zune services including the music subscription service, music sales, video purchases and movie rentals. Other countries will be getting a variety of those services. Canada, for example, will get movie rentals and video purchases, but won't get access to the music store. Germany, meanwhile, will get everything but Zune Pass. For a complete list of countries where Zune is available click here.

Worldwide challenge

Microsoft's ability to offer Zune services integrated with Windows Phone 7 in numerous worldwide markets is critical for the platform's long-term success. Nokia's Ovi Store is available in more than 190 countries. Apple's iTunes App Store is currently available in 90 countries. Google's Android App Market, meanwhile, only offers paid access to the Market in nine countries, and free access in less than 50 countries. Recent rumors suggest that PayPal may become a payment option for the Android Market. If that's true, then the number of countries where you can buy Android apps would expand very rapidly.

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