REDMOND, WASHINGTON: Microsoft on Monday finally confirmed news reports and conceded it plans a move into digital music and video players, a major shift in its digital entertainment strategy, prompted by the runaway success of Apple Computer's iPod.

Before the end of the year, the Redmond titan will introduce "a family of hardware and software products" branded Zune.

"We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together," says general manager of marketing Chris Stephenson.