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Hands-on with the Zune Pass subscription music service

This week, Microsoft announced a major change to its all-you-can-eat music download service. The new Zune Pass costs $14.95 a month and gives subscribers the right to download anything in the Zune marketplace. In addition, the monthly fee includes 10 song credits, which can be used for DRM-free MP3. Here's how it works.
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The new Zune software, released earlier this week, offers a gorgeous user interface and an impressively smooth end-to-end experience. And unlike Apple's iTunes store, you can build a library of unlimited size for a flat monthly fee.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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These file properties indicate that roughly 1500 tracks in this PC's collection are downloads from the Zune Pass subscription service. Buying this collection on iTunes would cost nearly $1500; Zune users can listen to any track as long as they've paid the $15 monthly fee.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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Subscribers can click the Download button to save this album for future playback. If you decide you like it after several listens, you can buy it. Microsoft claims that 90% of all tracks in the Zune marketplace will be DRM-free MP3s when its latest round of deals with the music labels kick in.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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Effective this week, the Zune Pass monthly fee includes credits for 10 song downloads. At 99 cents for each purchased song, that lowers the effective price of the subscription portion to roughly 5 bucks.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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Microsoft is no doubt counting on subscribers to purchase more than just the 10 free songs each month. Doing so requires that you purchase points from Microsoft and use them as credit.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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Zune Pass downloads use the WMA format with DRM. The license expires after a month, and downloads can't be burned to a CD. For songs that are sold in DRM-protected formats, using one of the 10 free song credits converts the license to a permanent one that includes burn rights.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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If you use song credits or points to buy a track in MP3 format, the file includes no DRM and can be freely copied, synced, and burned.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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The Zune servers keep track of purchase and subscription histories, allowing you to re-download tracks to another supported computer.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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Links to the Zune website allow you to browse through an artist;'s catalog and listen to any available album without having to buy it. You can also see playlists created by other subscribers.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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The MixView option is available for any album or artist. Click the link to see a display like this one, with your starting point in the center surrounded by related artists, albums, and tunes. Hover the mouse pointer over an image to see more; click to see the MixView for that selection. At any time, you can download and play a track or album.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible
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The Zune marketplace includes more than just music. It offers an impressive selection of videos, as well as an excellent interface for finding and subscribing to podcasts.
For the full story, see: Why the new Zune Pass should be irresistible

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