Week in review: Where's the Apple iKiller?

Microsoft and Verizon have designs on Apple territory, while record labels send a message to file sharers. Also: Will a Net access tax be stopped?

Challengers to Apple's gadget throne released new products--but do they have the muscle to get the job done?

The first salvo came from Microsoft, which announced that it will offer three new models of the Zune music player in November, including two equipped with flash memory. The 4GB and 8GB versions are iPod Nano lookalikes that will sell for a suggested retail price of $149 and $199 respectively. An 80GB player equipped with a hard drive will sell for $249. The pricing scheme for the devices exactly mirrors that of Apple's iPods.

Some of the other changes include a complete overhaul of the device's software and a redesign of Marketplace, Zune's music store. Other interesting features include wireless syncing and the new Zune Pad, a touch-sensitive technology that enables people to slide a finger across the main navigation button instead of always having to click.

However, analysts are saying the newest Zune models don't offer anything demonstrably better than the iPod. More than a year has passed since Microsoft began developing the music player and the company is still without a video store comparable to iTunes. Zune's Marketplace will begin offering music videos, but it is still without TV shows. While Microsoft crowed about its new touch-sensitive navigation button, the new iPods come equipped with touch-sensitive screens.

While many CNET readers condemned or defended the new device, which News.com learned is set to be released by November 13, one reader suggested that they didn't have much to go on while evaluating the yet-to-be-released player.

"It's just sad that people don't even try something, before saying 'I hate it!'" .

On another front, Verizon Wireless, hoping to put a dent in iPhone's popularity, for the holiday 2007 season. The company expects to have these phones and others on Verizon Wireless store shelves before Thanksgiving.

The LG Voyager is the first phone offered by Verizon Wireless that--like the Apple iPhone--has a large external touch screen. Verizon Wireless is also finally offering its version of the popular BlackBerry Pearl. Unlike models sold by AT&T or T-Mobile, Verizon's version will work over its 3G network.

However, the preview had one CNET News.com reporter wondering where the iPhone killer was in the pack, saying "I wasn't really blown away by any of the phones that Verizon showed off." The reporter added that she didn't think people impressed by the iPhone and hoping to get one this holiday season would be happy with any of these Verizon Wireless phones in their stockings.

The song remains to blame
The spotlight returned to the fight against online file sharing as a Minnesota woman was ordered to pay $220,000 to six of the top music labels after a federal jury found that she shared copyrighted music over the Internet. Jammie Thomas, who was accused of sharing more than 1,700 songs, elected to fight it out in court with the recording industry instead of settling for far less money.

The case marked the first time that a music file-sharing case has gone before a jury. Thomas denied wrongdoing. While she was accused of sharing music with Kazaa, she argued that she didn't even own a Kazaa account.

Meanwhile, tired of their antipiracy messages being ignored by the teen- and college-age set, the entertainment industry is attempting to indoctrinate far younger disciples. Representatives from the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry's trade group, and the Canadian Recording Industry Association shed some light on their strategies at an antipiracy summit this week hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Entertainment Software Association has gone so far as to develop a copyright education curriculum geared toward the kindergarten through fifth-grade set. Since 2005, the organization has been trying to find ways to get teachers to incorporate its tenets into their everyday lessons. The components, which include charts, teacher's guides, lesson plans and a wall poster imploring students to "Join the ? Team," are also now available online.

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