Microsoft’s Zune media player won’t be available in Europe until the end of this year, the company has announced.

If on schedule, the release will be just in time to catch the lucrative Christmas period.

Microsoft is pleased with the sales of the music player in the US, following its launch there in November last year. The NPD group released US figures showing that in December the Zune recorded 2.8 percent of the market and 10.2 percent in the 30GB category. It is thought that the music player is on target to sell over a million units by the end of June.

The exact European release date will follow some extensive research in the form of focus groups to see how the Zune can be modified for European consumers in terms of the software and marketing. Microsoft has also been working on new Zunes for release in the US that should be available also at the end of 2007.

At the music industry event, MidemNet, Zune’s general manager of global marketing, Chris Stephenson, commented that Microsoft’s sales of the Zune were on track given that they had “entered a category with a dominant competitor this year was about getting into the game”.