Microsoft today announced the long awaited launch of their Zune entertainment services across Europe and Australasia. Consumers in 20 countries, including the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia and New Zealand will be able to access Zune services on Windows PCs, Windows Phone 7 devices and Xbox 360 this Autumn.

Version 4.7 of the Zune software for PC will be available as a free download, to allow easy management of movies, music, podcasts and pictures, whilst standard and high definition movies will be available to rent and stream instantly from Zune Marketplace on PC and Xbox 360. Additionally, movies can be synced between PC and Windows Phone 7 devices to allow video streaming on the go.

Zune Marketplace also allows the purchase songs from a library of millions of MP3s. Microsoft are also set to bring Zune Pass to Europe, allowing unlimited downloading and streaming of songs from Zune Marketplace for a monthly £8.99/EUR 9.99 subscription. However, unlike their US counterparts, European subscribers will not be able to select and keep 10 tracks per month.

The full list of services available looks like this:

  • Zune Pass (U.K., France, Italy and Spain). The monthly music subscription service will be available for 9.99 euros /8.99 pounds per month for unlimited download and streaming access to the Zune music catalog and will be accessible on Windows-based PCs, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE. The offer in the U.S. will remain at $14.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streaming access, with the ability to keep 10 MP3s per month.
  • Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.
  • Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere — on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.
  • Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.

No announcement has been made regarding Zune hardware coming to Europe – it appears that Microsoft are instead marketing Windows Phone 7 handsets as the device to enjoy Zune services on the go, leaving a question mark over the future of the Zune HD in the US.

The move strengthens Microsoft’s entertainment position in Europe and ensures services from Apple, Spotify, Amazon and LoveFilm will have another major competitor to tackle from the end of the year. With strong multi-device strategies and content distribution platforms in place, the battle between Apple and Microsoft in particular will be fascinating over the next few years.

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