One of the big selling points of Microsoft’s rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat, called “Zune” by the Microsoft marketing wunderkinds, is its ability to create “community” by allowing Zune users to share their music wirelessly between each other.
Not so fast, Tex. There’s bumps in that there road to digital nirvana.
Microsoft Zune project manager Matt Jubelirer confirms in the video below that not all the music you buy from the Zune Marketplace can be shared. Hmmm. That begs the almost instantaneous question ‘well, what songs can’t be shared’. Jubelirer dances around the question: “We’re not getting specific on any of those.” Okay this needs to be clarified a bit, says I. Luckily, the interviewer agrees. So, when you purchase a song from the Zune store, will it tell you whether the song can be shared or not? “No, it won’t”, admits Jubelirer.
So, let’s get this straight. A capability touted as one of the main strengths of the device only works part of the time, and Microsoft isn’t going to tell you “what” part of the time that is? That’s nuts, yet strangely, mirrors the Microsoft Windows experience.
Jubelirer goes on to explain that most of the content, particularly that from your own library, will be sharable (the shared copy can be played three times by the recipient, and cannot be reshared by the sharee [sharee?]).
So, what labels will allow their songs to be shared? “We don’t talk about the specifics of our business deals.”
He then goes on to reveal, perhaps, a portion of the pitch Microsoft has made to the labels in order to get them on board: “You can share most of those files and really promote those bands.”
Promote those bands?
Seriously, tell me record execs don’t really believe they’re going to get viral traction from the Zune Army for their bands using a model that is limited by 1) geographic distance (in order to share, Zune users must be within a very short range); and 2) the inability to reshare the shared track. Why not simply adopt a modified model of distributed sharing that provides for limited-count playback? The notion of viral marketing is the viral part, folks. Quarantining the outbreak after one generation is exactly how you prevent its uncontrolled spread. Psst. Hey man. Here’s a cool song. Don’t pass it on.
Better plan: Allow users to share their songs, and limit non-purchasers to three plays. But every time the song is shared, provide the sharee more plays. That’s how you build buzz. Reward the Army, expose the masses.
“It’s in community [the ability to share music and pictures with other Zune users]. I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That’s a software experience.” — Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer
But, like all Microsoft products (due, IMHO, to their intrinsically Borg-like not-invented-here ethos), the actual product is not what’s promoted. In other words, you’re only going to be able to “squirt” your content when labels and their Microsoft lackey say it’s okay to squirt.