Is Zune-to-Zune sharing really that scary?

The Microsoft Zune will be hitting stores shortly after Halloween and some reports of DRM being applied to your own content are scary. We clear up the DRM issue, but then also wonder about the purpose of a single Zune Marketplace and why there has to be any limit at all on our own content.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I've been following the news surrounding the Microsoft Zune experience and as a gadget freak I am a bit interested in the device and do look forward to checking one out. The DRM aspects of the Zune have caused me a bit of concern and as I started thinking more about the content I would share with a buddy, I realized I had to get to the bottom of the issues. You see, if I buy a Zune, one thing I would do with it is share my MobileTechRoundup podcast wirelessly with others. Would Microsoft wrap DRM around my own original content? Wouldn't that cause all kinds of legal issues? How scary is this Zune DRM?

Microsoft Zune
I figured the best way to get the correct answer, since I have seen all kinds of opinions online, was to go directly to the source at Microsoft. I contacted Cesar Menendez, who is a member of the Microsoft Zune team. He has a very good blog called the Zune Insider and can be found around the Seattle area showing off Zune devices. He was very quick to respond with the straight answer that DRM will not be applied to any song or podcast that you obtain or create outside of the Zune Marketplace. Well, that was a quick relief of my concerns. However, the 3-day/3-play limitation is built into the Zune so while DRM will not be applied to the podcast I want to share, the podcast can still only be played 3 times or for 3 days if I share it via WiFi and Zune-to-Zune sharing. I guess the 3-days/3-plays strategy is a way for more content to be tried, but it seems like it might be a bit of a pain for the user to manage since they would then have to go download my podcast and put it on the device themselves, not using WiFi, to listen to it past a 3-day period. Fortunately, the 3-day/3-play limit does not apply to photos that are sent via WiFi.

On a related Zune note, it appears that Microsoft is giving a swift kick in the rear to all those providers who launched PlaysForSure content and hardware. I don't understand why the Zune can't support PlaysForSure and allow consumers a wide selection of content providers. It would be great to see Yahoo, Virgin, Urge, Napster, Rhapsody, and eMusic all compete for Zune owners while improving their services and offering competitive plans. It looks like Zune owners may be limited to the Zune Marketplace store with no competition to drive prices or services. Now that is scary!

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