One of the key selling points of the iPod (I'd go as far as to say that it's the unique selling point) is that the iTunes store is easy to use. In fact, it's very simple to use. I'd hoped that Microsoft would follow suit with the Zune Marketplace. It didn't.
Apple Matters takes a look at how the Zune Marketplace works and here's how they summarize the process:
The 5 Step Plan To Fill Your Zune With Legal Music
1. Create a free Zune account
2. Register a valid credit card
3. Buy “points” from MS
4. Scratch your head as you try to figure out why you need to buy “points” to buy songs. Why can’t you just use standard American currency? Doesn’t Microsoft accept the Dollar anymore? 5. Say “screw it” and go buy an iPod
The Zune points system works as follows:
$5 = 400 points
$15 = 1200 points
$25 = 2000 points
$50 = 4000 points
For those just wanting to buy a few tracks, it's going to be an pain in the rearThis means that a Zune Point is worth 1.25 cents and a track is priced at 79 Zune points costing 98.75 cents (so ultimately it is cheaper than the iTunes store ;-). So you have to pay up $5 before you can buy a single song. From Microsoft's point of view, that's a good thing because it means that people keep on coming back, but from the point of view of the customer it means giving Microsoft a minimum of $5 for a single purchase.
The points system is also a clever way of hiding the real price of the tunes. It'll be easier for Microsoft to add one point to the cost of a tune that it will be for Apple to add a single cent to the price, even though both would take the price of a track up to the $1 psychological barrier. (Which sounds cheaper to you - 79 Zune Points or 99 cents? 80 Zune points or $1?). It also means that you almost always end up with spare points, spare points that you won't want to waste.
Microsoft's reason for using points is that they can also be used at both the Zune Marketplace and the Xbox Live Marketplace. That might be good for Xbox Live Marketplace users but for those just wanting to buy a few tracks, it's going to be an pain in the rear.