"REDMOND, Wash. - Sep. 20, 2010 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on Zune.net to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE. "The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it - and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers." "
No surprises here, except perhaps that Microsoft has failed to expand the world-wide reach of the Zune Pass as much as I'd hoped they would. I live in Canada and was hoping - no, expecting - to be able to get a Zune Pass to go along with my upcoming Windows Phone 7 purchase. Here are the highlights:
- The Zune Pass is coming to the U.K., France, Italy and Spain - consumers in that country will get the full subscription package for £8.99 / €9.99. However - and this is a bit of an issue for some - there are no free 10 tracks per month.
- Music purchase is available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany - this means MP3s from the Zune Marketplace.
- Video purchases from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- Movie rentals from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Is that a confusing mess, or what? As a Canadian, I can buy videos from the Zune Marketplace, and rent them, but I can't buy music? Or can't get a Zune Pass for the Windows Phone 7 device I'm pretty sure Rogers is going to be launching here in the next 90 days? Ridiculous. And why can someone in Ireland rent a movie, but not buy one? The Germans will be able to purchase MP3s from the Zune Marketplace, but they can't get a Zune Pass? And my head will explode if I try to figure out who can do what with Xbox Live - I've been able to rent movies from Xbox Live for months, but I can't rent them or purchase them on my PC.
This not the unified vision I was hoping to see from Microsoft. This is a slapdash, fragmented effort that fails to deliver a solid entertainment experience to everyone in the countries Microsoft is supporting. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is complicated legal stuff, but if Apple can get it done, why can't Microsoft? I'm tired of having to use a loophole to purchase music from Amazon. I'm tired of iTunes being the only source for video purchases I have available. I was hoping Microsoft was going to deliver a solid solution here, and they haven't. It's no wonder Apple is kicking ass and taking names when this is the best their competition can do.
The glimmer of good news in all this is that there's finally a new release of the Zune desktop software; I hope they've added useful features and improved performance, both of which are sorely needed.
What's your take on this? Am I being too hard on Microsoft? Should I be patting them on the back for achieving a tiny fraction of the digital entertainment unity that Apple has been able to create?
The remainder of the press release is after the break. Read more...