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To start hinting that you're going to make the best ever media phone this close to Christmas could of course save many of us a lot of money. "Of course, darling, I was going to spend £500 on a media phone for you but the Zune phone is apparently coming out next year so I bought these cup cakes instead..." kind of suits the credit crunch/recession/whatever we're calling it right now mentality.

Only...there's a deliberate mistake in that sentence up there. You'll have noticed that being a Brit I put a pound sign rather than a dollar sign in there - fair enough, you think, it's what I spend. Except of course I don't spend it on Zunes. I can't, we're not allowed the things in the UK yet.

It's almost two years to the day that I made my first appearance on BBC London Radio to talk about gadgets - Boxing Day 2006. One of the things I mentioned was that the Zune was poised to take on the iPod, and that it would almost certainly be coming to Europe soon. The fact that it hasn't has yet to be eplained by Microsoft or anyone else.

I do have a theory, though. At every available juncture in the market - when a new product looks as though it might do well - Apple has done something as a blocking manoeuvre. Run-up to Christmas 2007: iPhone launch, sorry, no room for a second-tier media player here. Summer 2008: iPhone 3G, or as I like to think of it 'the iPhone that delivered'.

I genuinely think Apple has kept Microsoft at bay in what was a very lucrative market until the credit crunch really started to bite by sheer cleverness in its marketing strategy. The timing of these and other announcements, like the super-slim MacBook Air, have simply left no suitable gaps for Microsoft. It's left Apple as the clear leader in the market with no real competition.

I'm not saying Apple can't be toppled as a media player. Nothing is forever. For the moment, though, it looks pretty unassailable - particularly this side of the pond.

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