Microsoft, until now a staunch defender of DRM, may make an about-face when it comes to its Zune digital music on-line store. The software giant will likely offer DRM-free tracks for the Zune in the near future, but no one knows when. With EMI releasing unprotected songs on iTunes, there is little question that Microsoft will be keeping a close eye on how popular the DRM-free (and higher fidelity) songs sell for the market leader.
The fact that DRM-free music is now available from one major label opens a window of opportunity for Microsoft, since now downloads from Zune will work on the iPod and vice versa, preventing customers from being locked into a single store for their music downloads. One issue Microsoft will have to work out that Apple did not face: the Zune's ability to "squirt" music to other Zunes. The squirting has stringent restrictions—the shared song can only be played three times by the recipient
According to the latest numbers, the Zune is having a hard time gaining ground against other digital music players. Microsoft hopes this will change as it starts a massive advertisingcampaign in an attempt to push the Zune into the limelight. A flash-based player may help, as all Zunes are currently hard-drive based.
There's another hint about the Zune's future:
"People are responding so well to the colors," Reindorp said. "We're having a lot of fun playing and experimenting with them."
It is disappointing when a world leader in technology is using the colors of its products as the selling point instead of innovation. How about beefing up the WiFi capabilities and then giving us a pink Zune? If this is the best Microsoft has to offer, it's no surprise that it is having a rough time catching up to Apple. Redmond has a history of stealing market share from established players, but the iPod is a formidable competitor.