You may be a great dancer but can you carry a Zune?

I’ve been avoiding all the speculation around the new Microsoft branded media player/ecosystem, partly because of NDA restrictions and party because there was way too much chaff in the wheat. But it seems like they have finally come clean with an o-fish-al statement.

What has me very concerned is the tidbit that this device is not PlaysForSure compliant, and, even more troubling, that the DRM employed by this device and the accompanying music store/service is not WindowsMedia DRM compatable.

The implication is two fold: This device will not play tracks you have purchased from any service that employs Windows DRM technology (MSN Music, Napster, CinemaNow, MusicMatch, Ruckus Network, et al). And second, it’s really going to piss of all those folks that made the investment in the Windows DRM technology with the promise that it would be ubiqutious in the Microsoft ecosystem. If true, Microsoft has now become a direct, non-compatable, competitor in the same market in which they charged others significant amounts of money (in the form of licenses) to join.

However, the most disappointing thing about this is it flies directly in the face of what is truely needed in the marketplace; fewer DRM platforms. I’ve said it many times before, and apparently I’ll say it again, if the market for digital media is to become mainstream it MUST be dead simple. As simple as inserting a shiny disk into a player. You’ll loose 20-25% of your customers for every additional step (button click on a web site, driver install, whatever) you require them to perform to use your product.

Let’s see how this new ‘ecosystem’ from Microsoft stacks up against that metric:

  • Buy a new player (-20%)
  • Install ‘driver/front-end/library manager’ (-20%)
  • Windows PC only (-5%)
  • Download and install updates to driver/front-end/library manager (when was the last time you installed something from Microsoft that didn’t have critical patches available?) (-20%)
  • Re-aquire all your PlaysForSure/iTunes tracks in the shiney new ‘Zuneryptic’ DRM format (-20%)
  • Buying a new set of accessories (FM transmitter, that see-it-from-space-yellow kevlar protective ‘skin’, HiFi boombox (is that an oxymoron?) alarm clock and shoe shiner dock) (-20%)

That leaves about 17 people that will actually buy and use this thing.

I truely hope this idea of a seperate DRM scheme for the Zunilicious player is a red herring for if true it would be profoundly stupid and harmful to the wider digital media market as a whole.

Microsoft confirms ‘iPod Killer’