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I've had half an eye out on this new thing from Microsoft called the "Zune". They are looking for it to be an "iPod Killer" which sounds a little ambitious to me. Something like 3/4 of new cars next year will have built in iPod support available. That, plus the huge add-on products market for the iPod make it a very strong competitor.
Microsoft have done some innovative things, from what I hear. Of interest to me is their take on licensing. Apparently you'll be able to use an easy link method (maybe IR or maybe BlueTooth) to share even a licensed song with a friend directly to their "Zune". The transfer will come with rights to play the song (three?) times, and of course an option to then purchase a license for it. This kind of viral music sharing fills an excellent need and is a great idea. I can't imagine that others won't come up with similar approaches very quickly. The fact that it is likely proprietary means the kids in school will all want a Zune so they can take part in the sharing. Clever. I look forward to seeing Apple's response, and even more to seeing what Creative does with their Zen product line.
Wal-Mart leaked pricing for the Zune today, which looks like 30gb units for $249. Not surprisingly, they also appear to be ready to drop the price on the 30gb iPod to match. I'm sure that will continue to play itself out over the next few months.
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DRM-unencumbered files, the Zune will actually infect them with its licensing
garbage. No thank you.
Repeat after vowe: DRM is bad for the customer.