Zune Thoughts: Zune Marketplace Song Sharing: A Test

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Zune Marketplace Song Sharing: A Test

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Content Creation & Management" @ 07:00 AM

When I was in Las Vegas for the Vista Lab and CES last week, there was a meet up of eight or so Mobius community members. Not surprisingly, there were also several Zunes in attendance as well. The Zunes came out and the song/photo sharing started. Unfortunately, as people began to share music off their Zunes (purchased from the Zune marketplace or part of Zune Pass), they were met with error after error about the songs not being able to be shared - the group as a whole found Zune song sharing to be a disappointing experience. One frustrated person commented that she had read 50% of the music in the Zune Marketplace was unable to be shared due to DRM restrictions. She was unable to recite the source, and I didn't have any proof one way or another. That number seemed quite high to me, but given how evasive the Zune team is on this issue, I had no understanding of how big the problem was.

I decided to do a test myself to see if the 50% figure had any truth to it. Since I don't have a Zune Pass account (and can't without a credit card billed to a US address), my test is limited in scope and should be taken with a grain of salt. I purchased eight songs from the Zune Marketplace Top 30 Songs (most from the Top 10), selected from various genres, and tacked on two KT Tunstall songs for good measure for a total of ten songs, nine of them from different artists. I then created a "quick list" on the Zune (the dusty white one) that had the synchronized songs and tried to share the songs with my other Zune (the dysfunctional black one). The results? Of the eight Top 30 songs, only five were allowed to be shared - that's a 38% failure rate. If you factor in the two KT Tunstall songs, seven of the total ten songs were shared successfully (a slightly better 30% failure rate).

Although my test was limited, I believe buying from the Top 30 songs list mirrors the behaviour of many Zune Marketplace buyers - and as such, if 38% of those songs aren't available for sharing, it makes the already crippled wireless sharing even less useful. Which songs can be shared, and which songs cannot, is a decision made by the music companies providing the music to the Zune Marketplace - so the lessened functionality of the Zune lies with them. What I cannot excuse, however, is the fact that the Zune Marketplace doesn't clearly indicate which songs cannot be shared - it's a "buyer beware" scenario right now, and I believe that only hurts the Zune platform as a whole. Microsoft needs to clearly indicate which songs can be shared, and which cannot. Anything less simply isn't honest.


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