Now that the Zune has been unleashed on the wild, we’re getting some more coverage on the player and this mysterious deal with Universal Music Group. (Incidentally, I am hoping to get someone from PR to explain to me what that deal is for, whether it’s intended to cover pirated music played on the device, music ripped from UMG CDs, or just the general music-y-ness of the device. Of course, shooting my mouth off may or may not make people want to talk to me.)

Microsoft To Give A Cut Of Every Zune Sold To The Recording Industry — Though It’s Not Clear Why [Techdirt]
Microsoft Zune: Paying off the Industry One Label at a Time [Gizmodo]
Microsoft Strikes Deal for Music [New York Times]
Trying Out the Zune: iPod It’s Not [New York Times, David Pogue Review]

Now, of course, here in CDM Country readers and staff alike are hardly iPod fanboys and girls. We like playing music, and we play it on whatever works. I actually want to like Zune; it has a clever hardware design and a well-designed interface, and it’s something different in a market that has been iPod-dominated. But here are the main issues for me:

  1. It’s not really a Wi-Fi device: Imagine being able to connect to Zune as a normal Wi-Fi storage device, to load and offload files, to sync your media library? Forget buying songs over Wi-Fi; why not be able to connect it to your home network? (Even Linux and Mac would work over Wi-Fi, too.) No can do. An entire Wi-Fi feature is wasted on an over-hyped sharing feature.
  2. You can’t share your own files: Microsoft could become a surprise hero to the indie music market, to (ironically enough) Creative Commons lovers and the music maven audience. All they have to do is let you share files to which you own the rights — MP3s of your own band, for instance — with other people. Instead, you’re limited to the same DRM that’s applied to purchased music. That doesn’t make any sense, as Pogue observes for the NYT.

  3. You can’t record: One of the things I love about the Windows players is that they have recording ability, often featuring not only internal mics but line-in capability. That makes the average Windows media player a much more versatile investment than the iPod. Not so with Zune, though, sending me back to PlaysForSure players like the iRiver clix (which, incidentally, can be made to work with other operating systems if you have the savvy to install some device drivers).