"Beginning November 14th, 2006, MSN Music will no longer offer music downloads through the MSN Music store. The "Buy" buttons that you are used to seeing on the MSN Music album and artist pages will change to links that connect you to Zune and Real Rhapsody."
If you were one of the many who said that some of Microsoft's existing music stores would die in favour of the Zune Marketplace
, you get a brownie point. Starting November 14, customers of MSN Music
(a giant in the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe) will be referred to the Zune Marketplace and Real Rhapsody for online music purchases. What will this mean for songs you've already purchased? Not much. They'll still play in accordance with the existing DRM rules (five authorised computers, support for CD burning, and transfer to compatible PlaysForSure devices), and will still receive support from Microsoft even after the store closes its doors. Furthermore, any existing credit will be refundable on or after November 14, though whether this will be able to be channeled into Microsoft Points is still uncertain.
On to the bigger picture, the death of MSN Music probably won't affect the US all that much. After all, with URGE, Rhapsody, and (soon) the Zune Marketplace up and running, customers will have plenty of choice as far as PlaysForSure and Zune devices are concerned. What's not yet known is whether MSN Music stores outside of the US will also hang up the boots on November 14. If so, this will be an extremely damaging move. In Australia, for example, nineMSN Music is the largest Microsoft-based online music store (the iTunes Store takes the cake for being the largest overall). Its death would force consumers to look at lesser offerings, at least while the Zune remains a US-only release. As you can see, there are many questions that remain unanswered. Hopefully, this will become clearer in the coming days.