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Microsoft hopes Zune sales hit 1m by 2d half of '07

Microsoft Corp. said yesterday it expects to sell 1 million of its new Zune music players through the first half of 2007. That figure pales in comparison to Apple Computer Inc.'s market-leading iPod, but Microsoft contends it would be a good start.

"We think that's actually pretty awesome," said Bryan Lee, corporate vice president for Microsoft's entertainment group.

The $250 Zune, whose 30-gigabyte hard drive can hold 7,500 songs, debuted in mid-November to mixed reviews. One unique aspect of the Zune, its ability to let users wirelessly send songs to each other, has been panned for allowing shared music to be played only three times in three days before expiring.

Microsoft executives have played down any suggestions that the Zune is an attempt to quickly steal enormous chunks of market share from Apple, the Silicon Valley-based rival that says it sold 39 million iPods of various sizes in the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Microsoft has mainly cast the Zune as a first step that would be successful even if it remains a small second to iPod in the category of higher-end music players.

However, Lee said yesterday that Microsoft expects to eventually "be the leader" in the category, especially once the company rolls out more models and starts selling them internationally. For now Zune is available only in the United States. No overseas sales plans have been disclosed.

Unit sales in the Zune's first two weeks were roughly the same, according to The NPD Group, which tracks the market.

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