If you're itching to see what that signature brown Zune can do for you, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) wants you to know that you can scratch away in a few weeks. This morning, the software titan announced that the Zune will hit retailers on Nov. 14. The 30-gigabyte player with Wi-Fi functionality will be priced at $249.99.

Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) can rest easy. Few expect this to be an iPod killer. The pricing strategy simply matches the new lower price on the Apple 30-gig players. If anyone should be worried, it should be music-subscription services like Napster (NASDAQ:NAPS) and RealNetworks' (NASDAQ:RNWK) Rhapsody. Microsoft's similar subscriber-based offering will grant members access to millions of tracks for $14.99 a month.

The Zune will come preloaded with songs, music videos, and extreme-sports video clips. Microsoft will also be selling various accessories including FM tuners, car chargers, and A/V cables to broadcast your Zune's innards on your home stereo or living room television set. There's nothing really special there, as you can get similar accessories for your iPod.

The one distinctive feature of the Zune is the social-interaction feature that lets users share tracks with other Zune owners. There's no need to fret, piracy-hunting hounds. In theory, the recipient will be able to stream the shared tracks for only a limited time. Eventually they will have to buy their own, ideally from Microsoft. That's really the main reason to get excited about the Zune, though it also relies on the device gaining wide enough usage to make running into someone with a Zune likely.

So don those earbuds and tune in. This holiday shopping season is starting to get interesting.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has a pair of iPods around the house, and he's sorely tempted to give the Zune a shot. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.