The Secret Behind Zune:
Music is Just Software
Microsoft’s iPod killer is coming for this Christmas, and it’s called Zune. The biggest news of the impending launch? After investing in “partners” like Napster, Rhapsody and Urge, MS has decided they have to go it alone. Much like iPod + iTunes, Zune will have its own exclusive store and not open it up to any partner sites.
The X-box team is behind this gambit and over the weekend I’ve realized that they really know what they are doing. They are building a hardware device with exclusive software. Something that has worked for Apple and home game consoles for nearly three decades.
Music is just software on a player. Led Zeppelin II is virtually the same as Super Mario II. Of course, Zune probably won’t have the entire Zeppelin in their store/service. None of the digital music providers do. Hence the complication of music versus games, the meandering arcane web of rights and ownership that keeps music from being available.
It’s like the complications of video game plus dealing with a real Mario and a real Princess, with their real personalities and their real team of lawyers.
But let’s say Zune launches with The Beatles as an exclusive. There’s a killer piece of software that will do a bit of iPod killing.
Where does that leave MS’s “partners” and others like Yahoo! Music? They’re exactly where they are now: stuck with a service that has to be free for people to use it. They’re just web radio and they better try to kill or absorb Last.fm or Pandora before they even set their sites on iPod.