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Microsoft iPod rival revealed

Zune might play games, too.

Microsoft has confirmed the development of a range of portable entertainment devices similar to Apple's iPod, finally putting an end to at least one aspect of the recent rumour and speculation.

With little more than the official confirmation of its development and a teaser website introducing the Zune brand, Microsoft is still not giving much away in terms of the functionality of its new devices - specifically with regards to gaming.

Rumours of Microsoft's intention to take on Apple - and the possibility of expanding the device to also play games - took on renewed vigour at the start of the month, with numerous reports of a device being developed under the guidance of Xbox evangelist J Allard and hitting the stores before Christmas.

The rumours appear to be at least partially correct, with the Redmond giant's GM of marketing, Chris Stephenson, issuing an official statement which reads: "Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year.

"We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together," Stephenson added. The company has so far remained tight lipped on anything beyond music, leaving the industry and consumers to speculate once more on the company's portable gaming plans.

The first in Zune's product range is set to go on sale later this year. Further information on its functionality and pricing, together with details of the software service used to source and purchase music, are expected to be announced shortly.