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All posts tagged "marketplace"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not a Fair Fight

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Thoughts Media Off Topic" @ 08:00 AM


"I love Apple Computer's video iPods, but they have their annoyances... Apple is surely mulling whether to remedy some, if not all, these limitations, and now it has a fresh incentive to do so: Microsoft's new Zune player. I've been playing with the music, picture and video player for the past week, and I can't recommend it. The $250 Zune has too many drawbacks compared to a video iPod with the same price and 30-gigabyte storage capacity. But the Zune does offer a few advantages over iPods."

Twin Cities reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata weighs in on the iPod vs. Zune fight. All though overall, his opinion is that the iPod wins hands down, he does a nice job of pointing out some of the iPod's frustrations and the Zune's strong points. (He even tried the "key" test on his loaner Zune, and was quite pleased with the hardware's durability. I'm not brave enough to try that!) One of the negatives that are pointed out in this article, amongst others, is the Zune Marketplace is currently limited to 2 million tracks, compared to 3.5 million on iTunes Store. Yes, Zune Marketplace does have some ground to make up. Most of these articles never mention that when iTunes Store first launched, it did so with a paltry 200,000 tracks, and only reach 1 million tracks some 16 months into existence. Zune appears to have a nice springboard launching with 2 million. As long as they continue to add content, this shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I’ve yet to have an issue find a song I was looking for on either service. Maybe I’m just too main stream!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Microsoft Embracing Open Ecosystems

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM


"Zune is unlikely "to make any dent at all in Apple’s market share," says Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, a consultancy in Silicon Valley. But Microsoft probably has no choice but to try, he adds. During its first 25 years, he says, Microsoft succeeded above all by bringing computer technology to businesses; to succeed in its next 25 years, it must turn its attention to consumer gadgets, for that is where the innovation and growth will be. But the formula with which Microsoft achieved its dominance in the first round appears not to be working in the second. So Zune is based on a very different business model-evidence that Microsoft is changing."

The iPod and Xbox 360 are living proof that closed ecosystems in the entertainment industry do work. This is the path the Zune is taking, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the same order as the aforementioned. In its current form, the Zune ecosystem is decent, but it could be so much more. Where are the movies and the TV shows? Where's the deep integration with other Microsoft products (because at the moment, it's only scraping the surface)? There's so much potential, and Microsoft has to deliver it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Microsoft Points: Deal or No Deal?

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Talk" @ 11:15 PM


"As we all know, purchasing songs, videos or games from the iTMS only requires a customer to create an account and have a valid credit card. Thus, like most other business transactions, you purchase a good and the price of that good is billed to your credit card. It works the same way at the grocery store, at the gas station or in a restaurant. And for the most part it seems like a pretty good system. Plenty of people have credit cards and they understand the concept of purchasing items with them. So, how, you ask, could Microsoft screw this up?"

James Stoup over at Apple Matters offers up a rather strong opinion of Microsoft's decision to base the Zune Marketplace on their Points system, rather than cold hard (plastic) cash. This has been a topic of much discussion since the details became public. While I detect just a tad bit of bias in Mr. Stoup's post, he does bring up some valid points, while completely overlooking some of the benefits of such a system. His post did get me thinking about the pros and cons of the point system. I won't go into detail about the drawbacks (purchasing in preset amounts: $5, $15, $25, $50; the points "conversion": $1=80 points), you can gleam those from the above article. In the best scenario, the Zune Marketplace would support points AND credit cards. (Maybe this will be rectified in the future.)

Since we are limited to points for now, I do want to point out a few of the benefits of the point system. The most glaring benefit being the integration with Xbox Live Marketplace, and being able to use these points to purchase content from both. Also, using the points system facilitates parents setting up an "allowance" of points for their children, rather than turning Susie loose with a Credit Card. In my opinion, however, the biggest benefit could still be yet to come. The points system allows for the creation of a "micro-economy", that could enable the distribution of custom-created content. Imagine creating a hot new background for the Zune, and then being able to "sell" that background for 10 points. Your new garage band wants to get it's name out there? How about selling your custom tracks for 25 points. What about the possibility of Microsoft extending it's XNA Game Studio to the Zune for custom game creation? Now you can see your addictive new game for 15 points. There is a similar system to this used successfully in the eBook world, where you can purchase short stories for pennies from a "micro" account that you preload with $5 at a time. What are your thoughts on the Microsoft Point system?

Zune Corps Tours the Zune Marketplace

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Talk" @ 09:30 AM


"That’s right everyone, we got the Zune Software!!! This will be our overview of the Zune Marketplace. This is where you’ll be going to get all your music once you get your hands on your shiny new Zune."

The folks over at Zune Corps decided to pass the time waiting for the Zune launch by giving us a walkthrough of the Zune Marketplace, complete with screenshots. I'm looking forward to giving the Marketplace a whirl. The interface looks fairly straightforward and easy to use. The Zune Marketplace appears to be more liberal than the iTunes Store with their use of album art, particularly while browsing for music. There are also some interesting little touches, such as the ability to browse by individual years.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Purchasing Zune Songs With Microsoft Points Explained

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 04:46 PM


"Microsoft® Points, the coin for the Zune™ Marketplace realm, is a universal system that works across borders, including Xbox Live® Marketplace and other Microsoft properties. Now you can truly explore new music on your own terms. Want to learn more about them? Here’s how they work: purchasing Points lets you deposit them into a special account that you can use on Zune Marketplace and Xbox Live Marketplace. You can buy Points online from the Marketplace itself by using your credit card, or you can pick up Microsoft Points cards at many participating retail locations and use those Points to purchase new music that you want.Once you purchase Points, you can browse and purchase songs or albums through the Zune Marketplace for 79 Microsoft Points per track (roughly 99 cents). When you purchase a track or album, you own it outright. That’s right. You can sync it to your Zune, rip it to a CD, or even send it to a friend’s Zune so they can see if they like it."

I'm a big fan of Microsoft points, at least in the Xbox world - we'll see if things feel different in the Zune world when I have to do a mental conversion from 79 points to 99 cents USD for each song. Still, by using points the Zune approach leaves itself open to other options, like variable rate pricing that might be more complicated if it were tied to a hard dollar number.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No UK Zune Until 2008?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 10:15 AM


"Although the device is on track for release in the US on November 17th, it will miss the lucrative Christmas market in the UK and Europe this year and possibly next, according to a report in New Media Age. One reason for the delay is reported to be that Microsoft has had no one to head up a UK and European launch – however the recently appointed head of Zune International will be building relationships in those areas."

There's word on the streets that Microsoft hasn't found a suitable Zune Marketplace provider in the UK, which sets the UK release date well into the future. One can only hope that by then, they will be marketing next-generation Zune devices. Having the first-generation Zune on store shelves in 2008 is a no-go zone as far as market penetration is concerned.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Zune Marketplace Details Announced

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Media" @ 11:36 AM

There's not much to go on here, but the first official details about Zune Marketplace have emerged: the all-you-can-eat subscription cost will be $14.99 USD per month, and the service will contain "millions" of songs. Individual songs will cost 79 Microsoft Points, which work out to 99 cents USD. And that's it for the official information.

Let's unpack that a little - first, the pricing at $14.99 USD. That's the same as Napster with a NapsterToGo subscription, which is what is required for playback on devices. It's 50% more expensive than the Yahoo! Music Unlimited To Go offering at $9.99 USD per month. Microsoft's pricing then would seem to be hardly market-leading, and I firmly believe market-leading is where they need to position themselves to make serious in-roads on the already established players. If I can get unlimited music on my Creative Zen Vision:M for $9.99 USD a month from Yahoo!, will the WiFi goodies on the Zune be enough to justify the $60 more a year? I would have much preferred Microsoft to position their service with more aggressive pricing - $9.99 USD per month has a nice ring to it. We can always hope that the $14.99 USD pricing is for monthly payments, and a yearly payment would cut the price back.

The issue may be moot however, as the Zune Marketplace is going to be limited to the United States only at launch. I held out slim hope that there'd be a footnote someplace that said "Oh yeah, Canada too", but a Microsoft source confirmed for me that it was limited to the USA. This is going to be hugely frustrating, although it's not unexpected. Regardless of where Microsoft launches the Zune hardware, people from outside the USA will get their hands on the hardware. They won't be able to use the device to it's full potential though without access to the Zune Marketplace. This issue is made more glaring by the fact that the Zune will not work with any other online music services. The "Zune Experience" might be easier than other services, but the question is how quickly will Microsoft be launching the Zune in other countries? MSN Music still isn't available in Canada, though they did launch in seven other international markets (Australia, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom). Will the Zune launch in more countries, and faster? I sincerely hope so.

A word about track pricing: 79 Microsoft points converts to 99 cents USD, which is standard for the market. I hope that pricing will be different when the Zune launches in other markets: 79 points is $1.26 Canadian, which is 27% more expensive than the 99 cents CAN iTunes users in Canada pay. Interestingly enough, Darius (who's in Australia) tells me that the $1.30 Australian that 79 points converts to is less expensive than iTunes in Australia. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in international markets.

There are still many unknowns: what about Zune Marketplace on multiple PCs? One would hope that, at minimum, they'd match Napster's three-PC offering, though as someone with six regularly-used PCs in his home, I'd love to see a more aggressive offering. What about multiple Zunes on one Marketplace account? Questions, questions.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Integration of Services: Marketplace and Points

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:06 AM

Earlier in the year, back when Zune was hardly a blip on the radar, I wrote an article that discussed the potential of Zune. It consisted of facts and rumours, but also some burning thoughts on my mind that I just had to get out in the open. With the Xbox 360 riding high, there were many things Microsoft could do with the Zune to make it a truly integrated experience. And based on all that was revealed yesterday, Microsoft is heading in the right direction.

Let's take a look at the Xbox 360. With internet connectivity, it connects directly to Xbox Live and the accompanying Xbox Live Marketplace, which is home to a plethora of free and paid content. Purchasing content is simple. You always have the option of using a credit card, or Microsoft's online currency system known as Microsoft Points, which can be acquired online or over the counter. But hang on, why a second option? Why complicate matters? Credit cards work remarkably well, don't they? Well, sure, but what if you don't have a credit card? Of course, if you're in that boat, you're stuck. Whatever the reason - age, employment status, bad credit rating, or even plain old fear of using credit cards online - Microsoft Points offers an alternative method of payment. In addition, they can be used for micro-transactions, effectively bypassing the minimum transaction amounts that some banks impose on their customers. They can also reduce the number of credit transactions, and thus, the number of credit transaction fees. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, Points cards make great gifts too.

Now, when I wrote that article back in July, I hinted that Microsoft Points would work great in the Zune's online store, which of course, we now know as the Zune Marketplace. And guess what? It's going to happen. If you have an Xbox Live membership, you can transfer Points from the Xbox Live Marketplace to the Zune Marketplace, and vice versa (using the same Windows Live ID). If you're buying Points fresh off the shelf, you can use it in both Marketplaces. Whether it's the Halo 3 picture pack or the award-winning album from John Legend, Microsoft Points serves as a single currency system allowing people from all walks of life to sample some Marketplace action. In the future, we may see a rewards-based system centred on Points, and even access to hardware purchases. It's all part of Microsoft's vision to centralising and integrating their digital entertainment products and services.

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