Technology & Science

Zune to launch in Canada this spring

Microsoft Inc.'s Zune portable media player, first launched over a year ago as an alternative to Apple Inc.'s ubiquitous iPod, is coming to Canada.

Microsoft Inc.'s Zune portable media player, first launched over a year ago as an alternative to Apple Inc.'s ubiquitous iPod, is coming to Canada, the company announced on the weekend.

The first Zune players, along with Zune software and Zune Social, an online music community, will be available in Canada in spring 2008, the company said Sunday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Canada will be the first market outside the United States to get the Zune.

Like the iPod and other media players, the Zune devices support video, audio, photos and other images. They also have an FM radio tuner and a built-in wireless connection that allows users to share music.

Three players will be available: an 80 GB model and two smaller, flash-memory based models, with 4 GB and 8 GB of memory. One GB of storage is enough to store about 250 songs or 75 minutes of video.

No Canadian prices were available, though the 4 and 8 GB Zunes retail in the United States for $149 US and $199 US respectively, while the 80 GB Zune sells for $249 US.

Microsoft has sold 1.2 million Zunes since the portable media player first launched in November 2006, a fraction of the over 100 million units Apple has sold since it launched the iPod in 2001.

Part of what has held the Zune back was that it has only been available for sale in the United States, while iPods and other media players by companies such as SanDisk are available worldwide.

Microsoft has attempted to market the player as both a media player and a social device, one that allows users to share music.

"With wireless capabilities and a unique social experience, Canadians can continue to discover and share music in new ways," said Craig Tullett, group manager of Zune Canada.

Zune Marketplace, Microsoft's online media store, will launch in Canada later this year.