Yesterday, Microsoft announced the pricing and release date for the first of its Zune MP3 players. Set to hit stores on November 14--three days ahead of the PlayStation 3 and five prior to the Wii launch--the 30GB player will cost $249.99, in line with Apple's 30GB iPod.
Zune will also use Xbox Live Marketplace's currency.
However, unlike Apple's iTunes Music Store, the Zune Marketplace won't just deal in real-world coin. It will use a virtual currency well-known to Xbox 360 owners--Microsoft Points. According to the software giant, "users can purchase songs individually using Microsoft Points for 79 points per track." As anyone who's ponied up for a new set of nonrefundable premium gamer pictures knows, that 80 points comes to about $0.99--the same per-song-cost as iTunes.
Microsoft also clarified that the Microsoft Points used on Zune and XBLM are one and the same--meaning the company is essentially creating its own currency, which it prefers to call a "stored value system." "Microsoft Points ... can be redeemed at a growing number of online stores, including the Xbox Live Marketplace," it said in a statement.
But does the shared currency mean that the Zune and Xbox Live Marketplaces will be unified at some level ? Will there be any connectivity between the two--i.e. will one be able to access Zune Marketplace songs via Xbox Live and download them right to a connected player? (Note: All Mp3 players, inlcuding iPods, can already stream music onto a 360 when when connected via a USB port.) That's unclear for now, as Microsoft had not responded to requests for clarification as of press time.
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