Last week we were startled to learn about Zune’s viral DRM system. As it turns out, the whole thing may have been a miscommunication on the part of Microsoft’s Zune Insider. But that doesn’t mean that Zune isn’t responsible for spreading the DRM virus. On the contrary, there’s mounting evidence that Zune is directly responsible for a mutation of the virus.
With the release of Zune, Microsoft has intentionally turned its back on its previous DRM standard – the PlaysForSure system. As a result, PlaysForSure partners are starting to drop support for Microsoft’s old DRM system in favor of their own proprietary DRM systems.
On Monday Real Networks and SanDisk announced that the Rhapsody music service will be switching from PlaysForSure to Real’s own Rhapsody DNA system. In an attempt to emulate Apple’s iTunes/iPod experience, SanDisk will release a new player that will be tightly integrated with the Rhapsody music service. The move is designed to position both companies against the upcoming Zune Marketplace as well as iTunes.
It’s been four days since we noted that Zune’s wireless file sharing sounds an awful lot like a form of viral DRM that may be in violation of the Creative Commons licenses. This afternoon Cesar, the Zune Insider, has stepped up to clarify his original comments:
I misspoke (mis-blogged) on last week’s post. We don’t actually wrap all songs up in DRM. Zune to Zune Sharing doesn’t change the DRM on a song, and it doesn’t impose DRM restrictions on any files that are unprotected. If you have a song – say that you got ‘free and clear’ – Zune to Zune Sharing won’t apply any DRM to that song. The 3-day/3-play limitation is built into the device, and it only applies on the Zune device: when you receive a song in your Inbox, the file remains unchanged. After 3 plays or 3 days, you can no longer play the song; however, you can still see a listing of the songs with the associated metadata.
Now that Microsoft has released some hard facts about Zune we can finally begin to sort out how much of an impact the product might have on the digital music market. For weeks we’ve been hearing rumors about how Zune’s wireless capabilities will be used to enable new types of music sharing and discovery. It’s the one feature that could potentially set Zune apart from the iPod.
Unfortunately Zune’s wireless music sharing is turning out to be one of those features that seemed better when it was just a rumor. While Zune users will be able share music with friends, there’s a catch (isn’t there always). As Jim noted earlier, recipients of shared songs will only be able to listen to them three times or for three days, whichever comes first. It sort of sounds like a really bad tire warranty.
This is going to be pretty short and sweet. I’m sure that Kirk may have a blow-by-blow analysis of all of Zune’s shortcomings forthcoming, but I just want to do a quick take on what is supposed to make Zune an “iPod Killer:” — that killer app that would coax people like me away from purchasing yet another iPod — the wireless song-sharing.
Of all of the product announcements made during today’s Apple event, the most surprising, by far, was the pre-announcement of a new set-top box. Code named iTV, the box will use standard wireless networking to feed iTunes content to any home entertainment center. The device is scheduled to come out in the first quarter of 2007.
Does anyone remember the last time Apple pre-announced a new product this far in advance? What happened to the legendary Apple secrecy? A huge part of Apple’s mystic is built around the intense reaction the press has to the unveiling of unexpected new products. That coverage usually drives customers to jump on the bandwagon and buy the latest Apple products immediately. By previewing iTV this far in advance Apple risks losing both the buzz and consumer interest during the months leading up to its release. Worse yet, iTV won’t be available for the holiday shopping season.