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iPods get airborne as Zune launches below

Apple has announced that from next year six leading airlines will begin introducing integration between iPods and in-flight entertainment systems.

Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United will begin offering their passengers iPod seat connections which power and charge their portable players during flight and allow the video content on their iPods to be viewed on the their seat back displays.

'There is no better travelling companion than an iPod, and now travellers can power their iPods during flight and even watch their iPod movies and TV shows on their seat back displays,' said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing. 'We're excited to work with Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United to offer iPod users an even better in-flight experience.'

In-flight iPod connectivity will be available from mid-2007. Apple is working with Panasonic Avionics Corporation extend iPod integration to other airlines.

Apple's announcement coincides - if not coincidentally - with the US launch of Microsoft's Zune portable media player. With the player garnering less than enthusiastic pre-release reviews, Microsoft is planning a high profile debut, with a series of free concerts across the US.

But analysts do not seeing it having any impact on iPod sales, tipped to top 20 million this quarter.

UBS's Ben Reitzes said that there is as yet little enthusiasm for Zune.

'While Microsoft's Zune will hit stores tomorrow, our checks show little excitement around the new product and we are not expecting much of an impact to iPod sales from the new MP3 player,' he said, before reiterating that initial reviews 'have been far from impressive'.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster agrees, adding that the Zune's one USP, wireless sharing, has limited usefulness.

'If, at some point, there are millions of Zunes in the market, the wireless sharing capability may prove to be a more compelling feature,' he wrote in a note to investors, but, 'In the near term, we expect very little impact on Apple's holiday season iPod sales from Zune, given relatively low public awareness at this point.'

Which is good news for anyone who thinks that Universal Music's insistence on a cut of Zune sales as 'compensation' for shared music, takes the industry's contempt for its paying customers a step too far. After all legitimate music buyers will not escape the levy, which Universal's chairman and CEOP Doug Morris seems intent on extending to all such devices, including iPods,.

'These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,' Morris told Billboard. 'So it's time to get paid for it.'

Universal will receive $1 from every Zune sold, half of which will be distributed among its artists.

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