Plenty of chatter about the launch of Microsoft’s Zune — will it kill the iPod, or will it suck? If you’re looking for technical details, Engadget is probably the best place, although the gang at PaidContent have been doing a great job of covering the story. I think the larger screen sounds great and so do some of the other features, but the wireless music sharing is the thing that interests me most. It sounds like a terrific idea — share songs with your friends! — but of course it comes with all kinds of restrictions from the legal wizards at the major record labels. Here’s what it amounts to, from this blog:
While Zune users can share an unlimited number of tracks, each individual track can only be shared once with any given user. Once shared, it can never be shared again. Also, each shared track is good for only three spins, or three days, whichever comes first, after which it disappears from the user’s device.
Does that sound like a great deal? Not to me, despite the somewhat breathless post over at TechCrunch. Admittedly, it’s better than nothing — but not by much. Why not have it time-limited in a different way, so that it expires after 30 days rather than such a short time or a puny number of listens? I know that the record companies need to protect their hits and they’re already taking it in the goolies from downloading, but still. And I know that Zune users will be able to share their own (sans copyright) music, as well as photos and album art or whatever. But I think the restrictions on copyrighted songs go too far.
Russell Shaw is right: sharing music is a deep-seated human desire. I think allowing people to share more would actually be better for the labels in the long run, but of course I have no real evidence to support that — although some studies have shown that those who download a lot of music (even illegally) also buy more music.