Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Zune Ain't As Social As It Thinks

By Dennis D. McDonald

I've written about the Zune before but have no personal experience with one. If Jason 's experience is characteristic, the title of his MSNBC article, "Microsoft's New Paperweight; Meet the only pet rock with wireless file-sharing," may be more accurate than Microsoft would like to believe. (Keep in mind what the "MS" in "MSNBC" stands for.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm not a died in wool Apple fan. I no longer buy music from iTunes and instead use eMusic; the latter has no DRM encoded into the MP3 music files it sells so I know I'll be less hobbled in routing files around the different players I own now and in the future.

Jason 's chief complaint about Zune, other than the fact that he thinks that Apples new iPod/phone combination is two years ahead in design of what Microsoft has put into the Zune's interface, is how the music sharing feature on the Zune has been implemented. Commenting on the key "social" feature of the Zune that supports sharing of files among Zune owners wirelessly, Jason says:

The problem is that Zune's implementation of the social idea is broken. In Zune's case, the players are so scarce, you'd need a 100-mile Wi-Fi range to find another Zune owner. Worse yet, the execution of the wireless share-and-play system is so hobbled by rights squabbles and stupidity that it's proved to be completely useless.

Ah, that old DRM "speedbump" again. To be fair, I can't blame Microsoft completely for this, just as I can't blame Apple for the limitations (somewhat less onerous) it has implemented with sharing of purchased iTunes files. The copyright owners simply don't want to give up control, even if, as I believe, the resulting "speedbumps" ultimately reduce the market for their works.

But that's a tired old argument. Back to the matter at hand - Zune's wireless file sharing. That, I have to agree, is a real nifty idea. I hate cables. Every time I move my workplace from home to client office, I have to manage a rats-nest of cables. Being able to wirelessly communicate among file sharing devices or with peripherals is a wonderful feature that I hope continues to evolve. The fact that Microsoft has had to hobble the Zune with DRM based limitations should not prevent others from moving in the same direction.


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