A Legitimate Reason to Hate the Zune (And Microsoft Too)

by Chris Seibold Nov 10, 2006

Imagine you’re in your local computer store contemplating buying a printer. You’ve researched the situation carefully, calculated how often you print versus print cartridge capacity, factored in print quality and have concluded that the Rifle AllinOne Mound of Ugly is perfect for your needs. The tag says $99 but when you get to the counter the cashier hits you for $150. Troubled, you query the cashier as to the nature of the discrepancy. The cashier informs you that the extra fifty is going to magazine publishers. Intrigued, you inquire further. The cashier explains (to the growing annoyance of the people behind you) that since there is scanner built into the printer that you might decide to scan an article without permission. Hence the fifty bucks is there to help the troubled magazine publishers. You protest. You aver that the only magazines you read are old issues of The Spy and that mag is out of print. The cashier counters by saying that it isn’t an optional fee, if you want the printer you’re paying the $#@#damned fee. You decide to pay. You’ve been treated like a criminal but, on the bright side, you’ve got a new printer and you’ve learned something: don’t talk to the cashier and hold up the line, people hate that.

Obviously the scenario is ridiculous, no one would expect to be charged extra because of something they might do with said equipment. For example, if one went into a store and bought a bag of Apples and a big box of razor blades on October 30* would a reasonable person expect to pay an up charge because those razor blades might go into the apples which could then be distributed to trick or treaters? Oddly enough, that is precisely what is happening with the Zune, though instead of hitting you with the fee at the register the tax on illegal usage will be hidden in the price tag.

Here’s the situation: Microsoft has agreed to pay a portion of the profits from the sales of the Zune to a record company (Universal) because the Zune will undoubtedly be used to store unpurchased songs. It is something record company executives have made noise about before but something that was laughed away as ludicrous. Microsoft wasn’t laughing when Universal asked, they just smiled and said “sure” (presumably they’ll ask for a kiss and cuddles later).

Here it is important to remember a few simple things. The money goes to the Universal, not to the artists. It could be that Universal will share the profits fairly with the artists and it could also come to pass that the Middle East will become a placid, uncontentious place. The second thing to remember is that since Universal got a slice of the profits every other record company will seek the same treatment. The final thing to keep in mind is that people don’t mind artists getting paid but they positively loathe the idea of forking over cash to what is largely regarded as an industry not fueled by motivation to give the consumers what they want but by a sincere desire to screw the end user out of as much cash as possible. So there is nothing remotely fair about the situation, legit users get to share the burden with the download addicted, bands won’t get paid and the profit model of the record companies is perpetuated: don’t make a more compelling product, find new ways to seperate people from their cash.

Obvious objections aside, the reality is that music execs are going to be getting a slice of the Zune pie for doing nothing more than whining loudly. Hence it makes sense to get used to the idea of paying for perceived infrinements instead of actual misuse. It is at this point we realize that the executives are leaving a large chunk of money on the table. The Zune, the iPod and every other digital player follow a pretty recognizable pattern: Wrap storage (either flash or hard drive space) in something sufficiently attractive, mix in a battery, a few specialized chips, a port for the ear phones and viola, a Digital Audio Player. You could do it yourself. Since DAPs are so simple stripped of the hype, it is time for the record execs to get what they have coming. First thing: Record companies should now get a cut of every hard drive sold. That is just common sense, the amount of music illegally downloaded far outstrips the combined storage of all DAPs sold and all that data has to be somewhere. That somewhere is computer hard drives. No hard drives, no piracy. They also deserve a cut on each piece of flash memory sold, a lot of flash memory is used in the shuffle and the nano and those things are just crammed to bursting full of non purchased music. Finally, every screen sold should earn the movie studios a piece of the pie as well, no screen means no watching pirated DVDs.

Microsoft’s move sets a bad precedent and turns all consumers into thieves without evidence. For the time being one can argue that the agreement is not going to monetarily impact consumers because Microsoft is absorbing the hit. If the Zune prevails over the iPod that won’t last long, the cost will quickly be directly paid by the consumer. Think of it as a tax for being a criminal even if every song on your DAP came from your purchased CD collection. As annoying as DRM is in general at least customers had a choice not to purchase protected songs, soon they will pay for music they didn’t even pirate just by buying a Zune. On the other hand, if you buy a Zune you should feel absolutely free to steal any songs published by Universal, you paid the tax after all. You filthy criminal.

*Something I do every year, so far no one has noticed. I suppose they think that I really like apples and shaving.


  • That’s a few off the top of my head, but I know there’s been others. Anyone remember the others?

    I meant to answer this in the prior comment.

    Mistakes I think MS is making with the Zune:

    -Only a 30GB HDD option
    -Same price as the 30GB iPod, should be much cheaper
    -3 play/day limit on wi-fi sharing
    -No wi-fi updating (although this is more a disappointment than a mistake, since no other mp3 player has this feature either)
    -vertically integrated DRM (also not a “mistake” per se, just really really shitty - same goes for the iPod)

    Those are my complaints.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 10, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Microsoft’s move sets a bad precedent

    One quibble:

    While this move super-duper cosmically sucks, it’s not a precedent.  As has been pointed out, the music industry has demanded and gotten a piracy tax on other devices.

    I say it’s time to blow the fuckers up.  In a metaphorical sense of course.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 10, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Daring Fireball‘s latest article about this is excellent and argues it’s not really Microsoft being “nefarious” at all.

    Microsoft needed Universal’s support, Universal knew it, and they’re making them pay.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 10, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Unrelatedly, my favourite person George Ou writes “Microsoft’s splintered DRM will kill Zune”.

    Note that on the poll at the bottom of this article, eightyone percent of people say they wouldn’t have bought a Zune anyway, regardless of DRM.

    Part of me believes this whole thing is simply going to be funny from start to rapid finish. Another part of me grimly expects Microsoft to conquer and destroy.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 10, 2006 Posts: 927
  • I was going to post the Gruber article, but Ben beat me to it. I think Microsoft was in a no-win position here.

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Nov 10, 2006 Posts: 121
  • The bottom line here is that the REAL problem is a potently lethal combination of DRM and monopolies.  The end result is that consumers get monkey-fucked by big greedy corporations.

    And they are ALL guilty of all of it.  Microsoft, Universal, and Apple are all guilty of implementing crippling DRM and they each have a disproportionate marketshare in some area that allows them anti-competitive practices that ultimately takes away choice and options from consumers.

    Won’t anyone think of the children?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Okay, vomit metallic green.  My bad.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I can honestly say my vomit has never been ‘metallic green’. Or yellow. Maybe if I lived in LA? My shite IS mostly brown though.

    Species 8472 had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 5
  • Wasn’t green the most popular colour for minis…
    Can’t comment about the nanos as I haven’t inspected them in person, but they look just shite in the web pictures. Really, I mean shite. Like, they make me feel physically ill.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Chris, check this comment:

    “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,” UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. “So it’s time to get paid for it.”

    Found here: http://macdailynews.com/index.php/weblog/comments/11610/

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 36
  • For the first time ever, words fail me.  Except for two:  greedy douchebags.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 11, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • These guys see no legitimacy in consumer rights.

    I agree, but this applies to ALL of them, including Apple and Microsoft.  They are enablers of the music oligopoly.  And unlike MS, Apple is now in a position to do something - but won’t.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 12, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • The “ridiculous scenario” you describe in your first paragraph is actually the law in Germany.

    mibu had this to say on Nov 12, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Comp USA had a display for the Zune yesterday, but it was locked down so I couldn’t pick it up or really examine it.  And the model wasn’t a working unit, so I couldn’t see the screen.

    The color is a non-issue.  The brown looks fine.  It’s kind of like a light wood color.  Actually kind of nice.

    It is bulkier than an iPod, no doubt about it, even thicker than my 60GB iPod.  Not by much, but enough to make a difference.  Also the case is made of plastic.  Not sure how much of a difference that will make to other consumers, but it seems just a tad less substantial.

    I already like the bigger screen.  I look forwarding to actually trying out the interface.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 13, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Check out http://www.microsoftshitbrick.com ... it’s hilarious!

    babbleboy had this to say on Nov 13, 2006 Posts: 2
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