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.”