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Microsoft on new iPods: What, me worry?

Software giant shrugs off Apple's latest, saying the iPod touch and video Nano don't change its Zune plans a bit.

"It is another good day for Microsoft."

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray famously used that line seven years ago, briefing reporters at the company's landmark antitrust trial, right after the software giant took a beating in court.

The Zune folks didn't use that specific wording, but they did try to shrug off the latest crop of iPods.

"This may come as a shock to folks, but today's Apple Computer announcement doesn't actually change any of our plans," Zune unit blogger Cesar Menendez said in a blog posting on Wednesday. "Of course we watched with some degree of interest but our plans have been in motion for some time now."

It's not entirely clear what those plans are, however. The software maker came out with the original 30GB Zune last November. The company is widely expected to come out with follow-up devices for this holiday season, with the consensus expectations calling for a flash player and an update to its existing hard drive-based product.

Microsoft offered no new details Wednesday, with Menendez saying simply, "No announcements to make other than the fact that the Zune team remains committed to building a solid experience for users."

One thing is for sure. It's going to take a lot more than a $50 price cut or this for Microsoft to catch up to Apple.

Apple significantly raised the bar yesterday. While Microsoft already had Wi-Fi in its device, the usefulness of that has been severely limited. The only thing the technology could be used for was to send songs to a nearby Zune, an intriguing idea, but far less powerful than what Steve Jobs showed off on Wednesday.

Microsoft has been careful all along to say it expected a long, expensive, uphill climb in this market. The thing that makes it so tough for competitors is that Apple has shown itself willing and capable of taking its market-leading products, turning them on their head, and making them even better.

The company did so a couple years back when it introduced the iPod Nano to replace the iPod Mini, its best-selling product at the time. And it appears to have done so again, replacing the Nano with a video version and the video iPod with the iPod Touch.

That said, students of Microsoft history know it's a bad idea to count Redmond out. Once it enters a market, the software giant rarely retreats. It tries and tries again.