If you’re in the market for a digital music player this season, I would strongly recommend avoiding the new Zune from Microsoft at all costs. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like the ipod (and there are some of you out there, although I’m still not sure why) don’t buy a Zune, there are other choices. Aside from all the technical reasons which I’ll get to in a minute, the absolute most important reason not to buy a Zune is Doug Morris. Doug is the CEO of Universal Music Group, the largest record label on the planet. He has managed to extort Microsoft into paying UMG at least $1 and maybe more for every Zune they sell. This is not for the actual music, since you don’t get any for that money. This is essentially a protection racket. At the launch of the Zune Morris said “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,” when talking about digital music players. How much do you want to bet that no musician ever sees a dime of that money?
In addition, between Microsoft and the record companies they’ve managed to strangle the only potentially noteworthy feature of the Zune, it’s wireless capabilities. The device has built in Wifi so you can share music with other Zune owners. However, when you send a song to someone they can only listen to it three times or for three days whichever comes first. After that the song is gone. You can’t however use the wireless to get online and buy the song directly from the player, you can’t use it to sync the player to your computer, you can’t do anything else with it. It’s a complete waste of space and battery life. The Zune is also a victim of drm in another way. If you have bought any music online from iTunes or any other store that sells copy protected song files (such as Napster or MSN or Real) you won’t be listening to those songs on the Zune. After pushing a scheme called “Plays for Sure” (it should have been labeled PlaysMaybe) for the past couple of years, the Zune uses a new completely incompatible scheme. So you can either violate the DMCA and crack your old music, or start all over again.
Overall the whole device is so indebted to the big record labels that combined with all the technical problems described all over the net in the last couple of weeks, the insane drm just makes it more trouble than it’s worth. I would recommend that you vote with your money and buy any other player and also refuse to buy any CDs or music downloads that are copy protected. Demonstrate to the big labels and the bands that are associated with them that you want to buy music at a reasonable price, and only buy from places like EMusic, Mp3Tunes, AudioLunchbox and MaganTune. They sell straight up MP3s with no DRM. If the bands want your money they should sell the same way. Doug Morris has enough money and he should not be in charge of what we listen to, where we listen and how.