Monday, November 19, 2007
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM
No Zune Pass For You! Unless...
There's a bit of bad news, however: the Zune Pass is linked to a credit card for repeat billings, and, you guessed it, they block all non-US credit credit billing addresses. So unless you have a great friend who's willing to have the Zune Pass billed to his credit card, and have you pay him back, you won't be getting a Zune Pass that way. However, there is a way: you need to purchase the Zune Pass 1 Month pre-paid cards (see below).
Figure 4: This bright pink and orange card is your ticket to a Zune Pass.
These cards sell for $14.99 each, and are available in the US only at Best Buy, Target, and a few other retail stores. Exactly like the Xbox Points cards, the Zune Pass cards have a code on the back, and when you enter the code, you'll have a Zune Pass for one month. This means the 10 song credits, access to all the music you want, and streaming music from any Web browser. These Zune Pass cards can be purchased in one month or three month variations, and if you don't have a friend in the US to buy them for you, you can find sellers on eBay with them.
Applications, Software Updates, Etc.
Given the lengths that Microsoft has gone to in order to make life difficult for international Zune users, you'd think they'd do something equally harsh with applications and software updates. Thankfully, they don't - which tells me that maybe some of the stuff they do with music and videos isn't done by choice; it might be licensing lawyers pressuring them to stop people outside the USA from doing something as simple as browsing the Marketplace. Regardless, here's the good news: no matter where you are in the world, your Zune will get firmware updates. Once get the Marketplace to appear, you can also download applications of the Zune HD. There are no geographic filters places on application downloads or firmware downloads.
Videos: This is Ugly
Despite my success in being able to get Zune Marketplace music, and a Zune Pass, I've never been able to purchase video content other than music videos. Music videos can be purchased the same way music can be purchased, but when it comes to TV shows and movies, there's an extra layer geographical-sniffing that I presume is IP-based.
Figure 5: Sadly, no videos unless you live in the USA.
So even if you have your USA Live ID and your USA Xbox points, when you try to download even a free video (as shown above), you'll get an error saying that the "Zune Marketplace isn't available in your location." I haven't found a way around this problem - short of getting really geeky with VPNs and proxies to try and fool the IP protection layer, you're not going to be buying or downloading free video content from the Zune Marketplace. Then won't even let you watch the movie trailers!
Getting Zune Tech Support
You've got your Zune, filled to the brim with Zune Marketplace music, and all is right with the world. The something goes wrong: your Zune breaks. What do you do? You call Zune tech support at 1-877-GET-ZUNE (438-9863). I'm able to call that number from Canada, but I'm not sure about reaching that number from other countries (let me know in the comments section). I'm not aware of a long-distance version of that number. In my dealing with Zune tech support, they were willing to assist me even though I told them I was in Canada.
If your Zune can't be fixed via phone tech support, and you have to send it in, this is where things get complicated. The Zune tech support people normally send out a box for your Zune, you drop your Zune in the box, and the box is couriered back to Zune tech support at no cost to you. The catch here is that they only provide that service in the USA, and will not accept packages sent to them any other way from any other country. So if you want to get our Zune repaired, you're going to need to find a friend or relative who lives in the USA and is willing to facilitate the process for you. When my black Zune 30 wasn't booting up properly, here's what I had to do to get it fixed (this was before the Zune had its brief release in Canada):
- Over the phone, I had to register the Zune in the name of my friend who lived in New York.
- Zune tech support sent the courier box to my friend in NYC.
- I shipped the Zune 30 to my friend in NYC.
- My friend put the Zune in the courier box, sent it to Zune tech support, they replaced the Zune, and sent it back to my friend in NYC.
- My friend in NYC then mailed me back my Zune.
Kind of painful, and long (the whole process took about a month from start to finish), but it worked out ok for me in that I have a properly functioning Zune 30 now. If you don't know anyone in the US, or can't reach the Zune tech support line you're in for some trouble getting your Zune repaired.
Wrapping it Up
And there you have it: my guide to working around the roadblocks that the Zune team has placed in the way of international users. To be fair, those roadblocks are something they probably didn't want to do, but were required to do for music licensing reasons. Our world is ruled (sadly) by lawyers, and those lawyers make sure that licensing music for international markets is as complicated and lengthy a process as possible so they can make as much money as possible. The Xbox Live system is active in many countries around the world, so the technology is certain in place to light up the Zune Marketplace in all those same markets (and they've done just that with Zune Video on the Xbox) - except for that licensing issue. Licensing laws are different in every country around the world, and before the Zune Marketplace can start selling music in a country, the licensing has to be set up. Slowly, so incredibly slowly, we should see the Zune roll out to other countries around the world - but until then, I hope this guide proves to be helpful to all of you international Zune users. If I've missed anything in my breakdown of how things work, of if you've found a clever workaround I haven't mentioned, please let me know in the comments section.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. He wishes the world wasn't ruled by lawyers.
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