"REDMOND, Wash. - Sep. 20, 2010 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on Zune.net to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE. "The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it - and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers." "
No surprises here, except perhaps that Microsoft has failed to expand the world-wide reach of the Zune Pass as much as I'd hoped they would. I live in Canada and was hoping - no, expecting - to be able to get a Zune Pass to go along with my upcoming Windows Phone 7 purchase. Here are the highlights:
- The Zune Pass is coming to the U.K., France, Italy and Spain - consumers in that country will get the full subscription package for £8.99 / €9.99. However - and this is a bit of an issue for some - there are no free 10 tracks per month.
- Music purchase is available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany - this means MP3s from the Zune Marketplace.
- Video purchases from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- Movie rentals from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Is that a confusing mess, or what? As a Canadian, I can buy videos from the Zune Marketplace, and rent them, but I can't buy music? Or can't get a Zune Pass for the Windows Phone 7 device I'm pretty sure Rogers is going to be launching here in the next 90 days? Ridiculous. And why can someone in Ireland rent a movie, but not buy one? The Germans will be able to purchase MP3s from the Zune Marketplace, but they can't get a Zune Pass? And my head will explode if I try to figure out who can do what with Xbox Live - I've been able to rent movies from Xbox Live for months, but I can't rent them or purchase them on my PC.
This not the unified vision I was hoping to see from Microsoft. This is a slapdash, fragmented effort that fails to deliver a solid entertainment experience to everyone in the countries Microsoft is supporting. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is complicated legal stuff, but if Apple can get it done, why can't Microsoft? I'm tired of having to use a loophole to purchase music from Amazon. I'm tired of iTunes being the only source for video purchases I have available. I was hoping Microsoft was going to deliver a solid solution here, and they haven't. It's no wonder Apple is kicking ass and taking names when this is the best their competition can do.
The glimmer of good news in all this is that there's finally a new release of the Zune desktop software; I hope they've added useful features and improved performance, both of which are sorely needed.
What's your take on this? Am I being too hard on Microsoft? Should I be patting them on the back for achieving a tiny fraction of the digital entertainment unity that Apple has been able to create?
The remainder of the press release is after the break.
Zune software has been upgraded with new features and functionality and will serve as the Windows Phone 7 synchronization client. The new software (version 4.7) will be available to download for free in more than 20 countries, including the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain, to easily manage your personal collection of movies, music, podcasts and pictures. Zune software continues to set the standard for entertainment software, providing best-in-class experiences to organize, discover and enjoy digital media with a variety of exclusive features. For example, the Quickplay menu enables immediate access to recently played content and personal favorites, and Smart DJ 3 automatically creates playlists from your personal music collection and takes the extra step of mixing in suggested music from the Zune Marketplace. The updated Zune software will also enable instant streaming of high-definition movies, allowing you to watch some Zune Marketplace movies in HD, with no download time, directly on a Windows PC.
Zune Marketplace online store is accessible from within the Zune software and offers the ability to purchase millions of individual songs or albums from its catalog, all in MP3 format. Here, consumers can also subscribe to Zune Pass,4 which provides unlimited downloads and music streaming capabilities from the Zune music library, including content from major music labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music and Warner Music Group, as well as thousands of independent labels. Zune Marketplace also has a large library of videos from major studios such as Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution for purchase or rental. Video purchases will be accessible through Xbox LIVE and Windows-based PCs, and can also be added to a Windows Phone 7. Simply buy your favorite video from Zune Marketplace and watch it on the screen of your choice.9
Zune.net is the perfect resource for consumers as it allows them to download the software and set up a Zune account with a new or existing Windows Live ID.5 Zune.net will also provide Web access to Zune Marketplace so you can purchase music or use a Zune Pass to stream music directly through an Internet browser,6 as well as purchase video content.7
Zune Expansion to New Markets
As Zune expands internationally, its music and video service will be tailored for each market. Genre experts will custom program Zune Marketplace and feature the top songs, videos, movies and unique promotions for each country.
The fall 2010 international expansion of the Zune music and video service includes the following:
Zune Marketplace will extend services to several markets in Europe and beyond.
• Zune Pass (U.K., France, Italy and Spain). The monthly music subscription service will be available for 9.99 euros /8.99 pounds per month for unlimited download and streaming access to the Zune music catalog and will be accessible on Windows-based PCs, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE. The offer in the U.S. will remain at $14.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streaming access, with the ability to keep 10 MP3s per month.
• Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.
• Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere - on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.
• Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.The global expansion of the service is the latest step in a series of milestones for Zune, including powering Bing music search results, the added ability to purchase music and video on Zune.net, and the forthcoming integration with Xbox LIVE and Kinect for Xbox 360. By continuing to integrate Zune across the most important screens to consumers, Zune provides an all-in-one music and video service for users to discover, enjoy and experience their entertainment wherever they want.