Microsoft has announced what it claims is the "evolution" of the Zune MP3 player into a brand, as it tries to move the offering away from being just a personal music player.

The news opens up the possibility of a much rumoured Zune phone, as well as the seeing the MP3 player becoming a range of different devices.

“The Zune experience is growing beyond a music player in the US. Zune’s international expansion starts with video on Xbox LIVE; eventually we’ll offer the full digital entertainment experience spanning screens, devices, platforms and geographies", said Chris Stephenson, general manager of consumer marketing for the TV, Video and Music business.

The new Zune platform will initially become a video service to Xbox LIVE in the UK and Europe this autumn.

"Zune will be the premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalogue of TV and films to the platform and exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new consumers for the first time", a spokesman for the company said.

Microsoft has said that Zune video on Xbox LIVE consumers will have the option to view a wide selection of TV and film content, how and when they want: either instant streaming, download to rent or download to own, so you can watch even when you aren’t connected to the Internet.

In addition, Microsoft today confirmed the next generation of its portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the US only from this autumn, the new player will feature an OLED touchscreen, Wi-Fi, built-in HD radio receiver, HD video output capabilities via an optional docking station, and an internet browser.