By Craig Zammit

USA: The battle for dominance in the mp3 player war is still far from over, but it appears that Microsoft’s own combatant, the Zune, has failed to make the impact originally hoped for in the US, as Apple’s iPod continues to dominate sales and win consumer preference leading up to the Christmas selling period.

After debuting on 15 November in the US, the Zune has received mixed reviews. While few could deny the Zune’s biggest draw card – its built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to surrounding Zune players – is a master-stroke, the feature has still failed to make a dent on the iPod’s sales figures heading into Christmas.

In the recent top 100 bestselling electronics devices list on, the Zune came in at 63, while the Apple’s iPod players occupied the top two positions and also featured six times in the top ten.

When comparing specifically against other mp3 players only, the Zune came in at 17, although once again Apple dominated, featuring eight times in the top ten and occupying the top three positions.

Compared against its direct competition – hard-drive based mp3 players, the Zune did fare a little better, and perhaps this is the comparison which counts. With Apple holding the top three positions yet again, the Zune ranked sixth, eleventh, and nineteenth for each of its products – a much more respectable showing.

However, unfortunately again for the Zune, in the hard-drive based mp3 player listing, the latest 30GB video iPod – the Zune’s most direct competition – ranked first and third.

And while potentially a case of conditioning, and the fact that the Zune is still a relatively new product, research conducted recently by PiperJaffray senior research analyst, Gene Munster, showed that only eight percent of 40 retailers surveyed recommended the Zune to customers, while 75 percent recommend the iPod.

However, Microsoft is bound to have a few bunker busters up it’s sleeve, and despite the slow start to its Zune campaign, the company remains positive, insisting that the Zune is a long-term project which will develop over-time.

Without a doubt, Apple will be fighting tooth and nail to ensure is doesn’t lose its mp3 empire.