After more than a year of speculation, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is finally launching its Zune brand outside the U.S. and Canada. The company says that the Zune software and related services, including the Zune Marketplace online store and Zune Pass music subscription service, will debut in Europe this fall; for now, Microsoft will not sell the Zune music player abroad.
Microsoft had said for more than a year that intended to take the Zune brand international but said it wanted to focus on developing the Zune business model first. Another reason for the delay was likely the upcoming global launch of Windows Phone 7, which is being closely tied with the Zune and will require Zune PC software to sync music, videos, podcasts, photos and apps, .
Last fall, it said the Zune Video service would be accessible outside the U.S. and Canada for the first time via Xbox Live but said it wouldn’t talk about taking other Zune-related services outside North America. The video service, along with the others, will now be accessible via Windows PCs and Windows Phone 7, in addition to Xbox Live.
The Zune line-up will be different in various foreign markets; for instance, the Zune Pass, which includes unlimited streaming will only be available in the U.K., France, Italy and Spain. It will cost 9.99 euros, or 8.99 pounds, a month. The Zune video service will also now expand to Australia and New Zealand.
And, a movie rental service, which will let people rent movies which they will be able to watch on their PC or on their Windows Phone 7, is going live in yet another set of countries. In all, as we have outlined before, there will be fierce competition. The details are in the release here.