Microsoft had surely expected more enthusiasm from consumers when its Zune player finally hit the shelves in the US yesterday.

The Microsoft Zune has been hyped in some sections of the media as a potential 'iPod killer' - the latest in a long line of candidates to challenge the market-domination of Apple 's iPod.

The hope is to draw in consumers who have grown tired of the iPod, which has sold nearly 70 million devices to date, commanding some 75 per cent of the portable music player market.

But initial shopper interest in the Microsoft Zune media player seemed low - the Best Buy store in New York said only two shoppers entered the place as it opened and purchased Zune players, and that only about 20 were sold within the first three hours.

It may take years

Microsoft has acknowledged that the Zune investment may take years to pay off, and analysts agreed.

"Apple will not feel any bit of discomfort from Zune, certainly this holiday season and a good part of next year," said IDC analyst Danielle Levitas.

"Microsoft is going to put tons of money in to the Zune over time, much like they did with the Xbox video game console," she said. "It's not about the first generation of devices."

The Zune comes with a 30GB hard drive for saving music files and connects to an online music store called Zune Marketplace , a competitor to Apple's iTunes . The player sells for $249 (£132), the same as an iPod with the same capacity.

Gadget reviewers have criticised the device for being larger and heavier than the Apple iPod , as well as describing its song download service as more complicated than iTunes.