Zune Thoughts

Zune Thoughts.com

Thanks for visiting Zune Thoughts - be sure to register in our forums!

Laptop Thoughts

Loading feed...

Windows Phone Thoughts

Loading feed...

Digital Home Thoughts

Loading feed...

Go Back   Thoughts Media Forums > ZUNE THOUGHTS > Zune Talk

Thread Tools Display Modes
Prev Previous Post   Next Post Next
Old 11-10-2006, 02:00 PM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
Jason Dunn's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160
Default Here's Why The Zune Isn't PlaysForSure

There's been a lot of frustration expressed by some people about why the Zune isn't PlaysForSure compatible, meaning why didn't Microsoft allow it to work with Napster, MSN Music, etc., and this post is my guess at why Microsoft went in this direction. First, you have to understand that the Zune team is under the same management roof, and thus shares many of the same values, as the Xbox team. The guiding ethos of the Xbox team is something along the lines of "If we control the experience, end to end, we can ensure it will rock". I believe that's exactly what the Zune team had in mind when they started this project a scant eleven months ago.  So the question becomes, why would they think they needed to control the experience, end to end?

To answer that, I look to my own experience with PlaysForSure. I had a Napster account with a Napster ToGo subscription for around eight months, and I used it heavily - and saw all the ugliness. The truth is that while Napster's subscription system sounded great on paper - all the music you can eat for $15 a month - I found it to be problematic. I downloaded a lot of music right to my hard drive, and listened to it day after day. I'd say on average of 8-10 times a week, the music would stop playing and Napster would demand that I re-authenticate myself by entering my password. This is despite the fact that I always had the box checked off for "remember my password", and that the Napster service was only supposed to require authentication once every 30 days. I was using their software client that was embedded inside Windows Media Player 10, and it was so incredibly sluggish and crash prone it made me weep. Napster customer service was next to useless helping me with the issues I contacted them about.

The device experience was a bit better - once the music got onto my Zen Micro it played back fine - but I recall having some issues getting authorized music onto the player. I eventually cancelled my Napster subscription and went back to ripping CDs. I have a Creative Zen Visiom:M, and I think it's a fantastic media player, but all the music I put on it is from CD or downloaded DRM'd music (from MSN Music) that I've burned and re-ripped. It might be PlaysForSure compliant, but I don't use it that way because the experience was anything but "for sure".

Now ask yourself a question: if my experience wasn't that unusual (and I believe it's not), why would Microsoft want to connect their Zune into such a dysfunctional ecosystem? Let's say they made the Zune PlaysForSure compatible, and a customer was using it with Napster, and had the same problems I had. How much influence or control would the Zune team have over Napster's half-assed implementation of the music experience? The customer might call up Zune tech support and complain he's having a problem, and the Zune tech support team is put in exactly the same place as the Windows tech support team - blaming the other guy when all the customer wants is a solution to the problem. What if some MSN Music DRM'd tracks won't sync over to the device? Imagine how frustrating it would be for a customer to be told that although both are Microsoft companies, they're from different groups and the Zune tech can't fix the broken MSN Music DRM? This is one reason that Apple excels at what they do: a closed hardware platform with tightly integrated software is much easier to control and troubleshoot.

Microsoft knows they need to make the Zune platform as simple as possible, because their partners did not, and making the Zune PlaysForSure would open up the Zune platform to a huge array of potential problems, making the experience just as rocky as everything before it. For the Zune to have a chance against the iPod juggernaut, it has to be better than anything we've seen so far - and for that, some rules need to be broken.
Want to contact me personally? Use this. Want to read my personal blog? Check it out. Want to follow me on Twitter? Here you go.
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
An International Zune User's Guide (Updated) Jason Dunn Zune Talk 37 01-15-2011 03:33 PM
Zune Content PlaysForSure? Aaron Roma Zune Media 4 12-05-2006 10:04 PM
The Zune Review, Part 1: The Out of Box Experience Jason Dunn Zune Hardware 10 11-24-2006 06:06 AM
The Zune Review, Part 2: Software Install & Initial Setup Jason Dunn Zune Hardware 22 11-16-2006 03:37 PM
Microsoft PressPass: Microsoft’s Zune Delivers Connected Music and Entertainment Experience Jason Dunn Zune Talk 7 09-23-2006 01:40 AM

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 07:16 AM.