Zune: welcome to the anti-social

Zune: welcome to the anti-social

Summary: Microsoft's so-called 'iPod killer', launches Tuesday


In less than 24 hours, Microsoft will release its latest 'iPod killer' into the wild. The Zune's 'killer' feature being, of course, the ability to share music wirelessly. Where Sony's original Walkman (and subsequently, Apple's iPod) are distinctly anti-social - the bearing of white earbuds being a symbol of solitude - the marketing slogan for the Zune declares, 'welcome to the social'.

However, despite what Redmond would have us believe, the music sharing features of the Zune are anything but social.

David Pogue in his review for the New York Times, hits the nail on the head:

You can play a transmitted song only three times, all within three days. After that, it expires... This copy protection is as strict as a 19th-century schoolmarm. Just playing half the song (or one minute, whichever comes first) counts as one “play.” You can never resend a song to the same friend. A beamed song can’t be passed along to a third person, either.

That's right, 'a beamed song can’t be passed along to a third person', which, in my mind, is as social as telling a friend about a great place to eat out, on the sole condition that they don't tell anybody else. According to Pogue, Microsoft is marketing the viral 'potential' of the Zune, as a way for unsigned bands to promote their music:

What’s really nuts is that the restrictions even stomp on your own musical creations. Microsoft’s literature suggests that if you have a struggling rock band, you could “put your demo recordings on your Zune” and “when you’re out in public, you can send the songs to your friends.” What it doesn’t say: “And then three days later, just when buzz about your band is beginning to build, your songs disappear from everyone’s Zunes, making you look like an idiot.”

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Why do you expect...

    Microsoft to recreate another Napster? I mean here is a cool capability to share a song, to beam it over to a friend maybe during study hall, and your big complaint is that it's too bad that the Zune doesn't facilitate illegally duplicating it to everyone else, and somehow that's Microsoft's fault. Like, how quick do you think they would have been sued over that?

    What you're really griping about is the law, and the inability of Microsoft to facilitate people's breaking it. So, go talk to your congressman.

    Here's a different analogy. Songs are like candy or chewing gum. If I find a great new kind, I can give some out to my friends. But after they eat them, they have to go back to the candy store and buy some more themselves.

    One question, will the Zune let you receive the same song more than once from different donors? I could imagine that could be a cool social element in the HS or college crowd. Hey, I had this cool song from George, but my 3 plays expired ... who else has got it that I can bum 3 more plays off of? And, there's a great excuse to introduce yourself to somebody new.
    • i expect more...

      I wasn't advocating that Microsoft's Zune should replicate the old Napster (though that would be nice ;) ), what I'm objecting to is - even with the 3 play limit - a Zune user can't pass on a song that they received from someone else in the first place. Many to many would be much more social than one to many. Pretending that the sharing facility is useful for bands is just wishful thinking.

      Having said that, I like your candy analogy - it describes the problem perfectly.
      Steve O'Hear
    • Microsoft is now in the business of social engineering?

      I find the whole idea that this is going to be some kind of social phenomenon very doubtful.
      Approaching a stranger, asking him for his or her music as a pretext to making new friends is a little creepy.

      I also doubt that everyone in your clique is going to be toting a Zune. After all, unless other people who are willing to share songs are available the whole feature is a moot point.
    • Good points

      You're right, copyright restrictions and fear of lawsuits make the wireless functionality of the Zune completely useless. I don't blame MS for this, I blame the RIAA. But then again, MS is kind of crazy for pushing this as some sort of great advantage of the product. They're also to blame for crippling the Wifi from doing something useful, either synching with your computer wirelessly or buying music wirelessly. Not sure why those had to be crippled as well.

      ---I could imagine that could be a cool social element in the HS or college crowd---

      At that point, wouldn't it be easier to just get someone to send you an mp3 or burn a cd for you? Are you really going to be continuously begging from your friends every 3 days?
      tic swayback
      • What I see of HS students....

        is that the social element of the exchange comes from it being able to be quick, immediate, and extemporaneous.

        Those attention spans, reduced from all the video gaming, don't lend themselves to burning cd's or emailing mp3's... :)
    • This is why I pass on Bill's Ipod...

      Don't apologize for Microsoft. Microsoft is not a government agency, at least not yet. Building in the anti-social expiration time into this product totally defeats the purpose of the wifi, and most consumers won't know this until they've unboxed the thing.

      Microsoft is not in charge of law enforcement. Microsoft is not responsible for the use to which customers use their product. A Ginsu knife can be used to cut tomatos paper thin, an aluminum can, or your neighbor's throat. One of these uses is illegal, but the Ginsu company is not responsible for that use, nor should it be expected to provide products that can't somehow be used for "illegal" purposes.

      The Zune has a better screen, but the horrible things I've heard about the software are more than enough to make me go ipod for my gf's xmas gift. Even if these two things were fixed, the fact that they've totally nerfed their own competition killing feature is more than enough by itself to not buy a Zune.
  • Until some wise-guy

    wirelessly transmits a virus disguised as a song that either locks or
    eats the content of the Zune upon play. Won't happen? Wait.
  • From a non-technical position...

    In an interview, Microsoft likens the Zune social to "the social experiences around a YouTube or a MySpace or an Xbox Live, and what they?ve done to reinvigorate a lot of things." What Microsoft fails to realize is that these technologies bring isolated people into closer contact. The Zune targets people already in social situations and attempts to break into that interaction. Microsoft has also stated the Zune Marketplace is not set up for sharing tracks. The problem is, at home is where people will be looking to create that MySpace and YouTube social experience of "connection."

    "The bearing of white earbuds being a symbol of solitude" - I have an iPod so I don't have to listen to other people, particularly when they're screaming on their cell phones.

  • locking up all content is stupid

    As the story indicates, you can't distribute your own copyrighted works through zune, even if you freely grant others permission to copy it. You can only distribute samples.

    MS claims they have to do this because the system wouldn't work.

    Personally, I see things with a more cynical view: as part of the trend to try to destroy free (as in speech) distribution of copyrighted works with permission of the copyright holder.

    Sorry for shouting. God am I pisssed.

    The wireless feature is obviously the hook here. And then Microsoft positively kills it. I had to read the NYT article to get the full story of the level of limitation:

    "What?s really nuts is that the restrictions even stomp on your own musical creations."

    So it seems that even Non-DRM songs (i.e. MP3s) get erased after 3 days. WHY? So if I copy it to a computer, then copy it to another Zune we are OK. Send it over Wi-Fi and it gets killed off, even if it not copyrighted? You have to assume that .MP3 files are not copyrighted. They contain no copyright information. This is silly, and really undercuts the one positive selling point of the Zune.

    Microsoft obviously isn't the best and brightest competitor out there. One really has to wonder if they didn't just get lucky being in the right place at the right time with DOS and all their later accomplishments just rolled down the hill from that initial luck (and monopoly).
    • I bet I can guess why "only three days"

      <<So it seems that even Non-DRM songs (i.e. MP3s) get erased after 3 days. WHY?>>

      Music Industry guys said to Microsoft "...and make sure it's three days for everything, we don't want people who ripped our cd's or downloaded illegally allowing their friends to steal more, it will piss off the indies, but who cares about them?"