Microsoft announces international Zune release with limited service support

Microsoft is getting the Zune software ready to release outside the USA so that full support for Windows Phone 7 can be provided. Different countries will have different services so it doesn't look like there will be a clear cut support system for Zune.

It is no surprise to anyone that Zune is starting to expand outside the USA because Windows Phone 7 devices are coming soon and Zune support needs to be present for these new Windows Phones to work. Microsoft made the official announcement today about the international market release and unfortunately it is full of footnotes and caveats as parts of the experience are broken in different countries. In addition to the international news, a new version (4.7) of the Zune desktop software is coming too.

Here is what the press release states for services and countries:

  • 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.

So, it looks like no one, but the USA, gets to keep 10 MP3s per month with our $14.99 subscription. This is actually a MAJOR reason I use the Zune Pass myself as I grow my personal collection at a rate of 10 tracks per month. Those in the UK, France, Italy, and Spain are the only ones that get unlimited downloads and streaming for EUR9.99/GBP8.99 per month. Germans can buy music, but not use the subscription service. For videos, there are six countries that can purchase them while 14 can rent them.

I understand that the problem with these subscription services is trying to get artists and labels to support the system in each country, but was hoping for a bit more global reach with the full Zune Pass since Windows Phone 7 is centered around the Zune experience for music, videos, and syncing with your PC.

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