Zune doesn't play for sure

Written by Brett Thomas

September 19, 2006 | 19:48

Tags: #zune

Companies: #microsoft

Wow, you couldn't make this oversight up if you tried. In a faux pas worthy of Sony itself, Microsoft has tripped over its own standard and landed face-down. Remember all that "Plays for Sure" crap-o-la the company has been pushing to help make DRM stick? Surely, you've seen it around - pretty much anything from Media Center to XBox to Pocket PCs come with the sticker now, illustrating your gadget's ability to play files purchased from Microsoft-approved stores that feature its own special DRM.

Well, apparently the Zune just ain't that special, folks...because it doesn't play for sure. The device will not play any protected media except the new DRM it is developing for Microsoft Marketplace. That's right - Microsoft's first foray into a true portable media player goes against its own DRM that it has been selling consumers and retailers on for months, leaving people who bought files on the idea that Microsoft might just support its own platform walking the plank.

The holidays may be a little bleak for all involved, because I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that most consumers would think that a gift-card for Microsoft-branded music will work on a Microsoft-branded player. Online e-tailers of music like Napster, FYE, and Microsoft's own MSN Music will be in a tight spot, as will the retailers of the Zune player itself. Ahh, I can see the post-holiday customer service lines now...

For those of you who honestly wonder just how this can get more entertaining, I bring you Microsoft's solution (and proposed new slogan): Just rip it. In fact, J Allard and company just can't understand what all the fuss is. If you already have a DRM file, DVD, or other media, they say there are a million and one programs that will render you a nice, unprotected file in a format and size of your choosing that will play for sure. "[There are] lots of DVD ripping software out there that encodes to those formats, so the most popular formats out there, whether it's MPEG-4 or H.264, we'll support those," Allard says.

So there you have it, folks. Shaft the consumer, stuff the retailer, and screw our own copy protection while we're at it. Oh, and don't forget to rip some DVDs and strip some DRM from your old files. Planning ahead for the win! I wonder if "Microsoft told me to" will constitute a valid defense against the RIAA/MPAA?

The staff here are mixed as to whether the device will seriously hit retailers without support for its highly marketed protection, but by the sound of it this may just be for real. If so, how many years do you think it will take before Microsoft lives the "Plays for sure" slogan down? I have a better choice for that four-letter "S" word than "Sure," but it might just get caught by the swear filter...so I'll just leave it up to all of you guys to tell us your thoughts in our forums.
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