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It was surreal to read today that Microsoft's Apple iPod killer, the Zune, has gone all high definition. That's to say that the new version announced today will have high-def capacity. Reaction has been positive; connect it to a TV and it'll be great, everyone's going to want one.

Well, tough, if you live in Europe. Because it's not launched over here.

And I don't just mean the high definition version isn't around. We in the UK and as far as I'm aware (happy to be corrected of course) elsewhere in Europe are a Zune-free zone. Microsoft simply hasn't issued them here.

There is of course the question, why on earth not? The answer appears to be that there's been some brilliant brinkmanship by Apple. Yes, I know Microsoft claims it's all about finding the right moment but we don't really believe all that hooey, do we? Apple, with a series of manoeuvres and iPhone or iPod releases, has ensured that it would put any Microsoft launch right into the shade as soon as it released anything.

It's an object lesson in how to trap your opponent into a corner, but there's actually more to it. This whole situation tells us that Microsoft doesn't have the confidence in the Zune as a competitor to Apple - I honestly can't see any other reason not to go ahead and release it.

So that's Microsoft, apparently not confident enough to release what should be one of its star consumer products. I do wonder whether they'll release it in January, although best guess is that's when Apple will release its tablet.

Will we ever see the Zune in Europe, high-def or otherwise? We might, but Microsoft had better hurry up and issue it while we still care.

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