Newsweek correspondent and longtime tech journalist Steven Levy spoke at the University Book Store the other night, and because he’d promised to have his Zune there, I took the opportunity to “squirt” him one of my songs. Our brief interaction highlighted the two big flaws with Zune’s wireless sharing feature:
1. The “first man with a telephone problem”–if nobody else has a Zune, who are you going to trade songs with? I’ve been to Microsoft a few times since I got my player, and I always bring it with me and turn on the wireless feature. I’ve never encountered another Zune with the wireless turned on. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever shared a song wirelessly (outside of the Zune Lounge at CES, which was totally contrived–set up by Microsoft specifically to get people to share).
2. The way Zune applies the 3 plays, 3 days restrictions to all music–even music that the Zuneholder owns the rights to, as was the case with this song. (OK, actually I didn’t write the song, our guitarist did, but I wrote the bass part and played on this recording…and in an unsigned obscure instrumental band it’s not exactly like there’s a lot of contention over who owns what.) This particularly sucks because, as DRM systems go, the Windows Media DRM technology that Zune uses is very flexible–it would have been entirely possible to allow end-users to set their own DRM restrictions on unprotected music. Of course, the record companies wouldn’t allow that because the assumption is that most music on a Zune is ripped from a mainstream CD.
I still think Zune has a chance if Microsoft rethinks the wireless connectivity and lets people do some interesting things with it.