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Microsoft Zune Users Get Free Wi-Fi At McDonald's

Microsoft also has added a Zune Marketplace tab on the main screen of the device for easier navigation to the online music store.

Microsoft on Tuesday released a Zune software upgrade that provides wireless access to the Web at no charge from more than 9,800 McDonald's restaurants across the United States.

In addition, version 3.0 of the software makes it easy to buy music heard on the portable media player's FM tuner by letting users click on a song they hear on the radio, and then immediately buy and download it on the device from a Wi-Fi hotspot. If the device is not online, then songs are stored in queue and are purchased the next time the player is on the Web, either through a wireless or wired connection.

The McDonald's feature is made available through high-speed Internet service provider Wayport, which provides Wi-Fi service at the hamburger joints. "Wayport is pleased to be working with Microsoft to make it easier for Zune users to access music on the go," Dan Lowden, VP of business development and marketing for Wayport, said in a statement.

Microsoft also has added a Zune Marketplace tab on the main screen of the device for easier navigation to the online music store. Along with music-to-own, Microsoft offers a subscription service called Zune Pass that gives subscribers the ability to stream any tune or album from the marketplace through an Internet connection. The service costs $15 a month.

The Zune Marketplace offers more than 4 million songs, with 80% available without digital rights management technology. DRM-free tunes can be played on other devices. The store also offers a total of 17,500 music videos, episodes of TV shows, and audio and video podcasts.

Microsoft also released pricing for new Zune players. Pricing starts at $130 for the 4-GB model, $150 for 8 GB, $199 for 16 GB, $230 for 80 GB, and $250 for 120 GB. The software upgrade is available at no charge to current Zune users and can be download through Microsoft's Zune site.

The software release followed a week after rival Apple launched an upgrade of its operating system for the iPod Touch and iPhone 3G. The upgrade fixed a number of nagging bugs in the devices. In addition, Apple refreshed the iPod line with new designs and lower prices expected to attract buyers during the holiday shopping season.

Pricing for the iPod Touch starts $229 for 8 GB of storage, $299 for 16 GB, and $399 for 32 GB. The iPod Touch is comparable to the Zune in that the Apple device also supports Wi-Fi. Apple offers less-expensive versions of the iPod without Wi-Fi support at prices starting at $49 for 1 GB of storage.

Apple accounts for more than 70% of the portable music player market in the United States. The Zune accounts for about 4%, according to market researcher NPD Group.

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