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Engadget Interviews J Allard On Zune

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Engadget has a long and good interview with J Allard, the man behind the Zune, about his ideas for the Zune platform.

Go read the interview, but I will talk about the most exciting aspect of the interview: The Zune wifi platform beyond the Zune.

You guys know all too well 802.11 devices there are out there. Think about what else we can connect to. Think about all the other scenarios we could do, whether location-based, etc. The device itself is intended to be a future-proof platform that’s part of this connected entertainment world where entertainment will become more personal, more interactive, and more engaged with community.

Microsoft is looking at the idea of creating this wild atmosphere with people sharing music with others nearby. If you think that it’ll never work, go to any college campus and load up iTunes, and tell me how many people are sharing their music libraries. Microsoft seems to be looking at the ability to share your music as the killer feature that Apple should have implemented. Hopefully for them, Apple will not try to steal the feature for at least a few years.

Think about this: Where do you find new music? Previously, you found music by listening to the radio, where occasionally they’d play a new song, which might catch on. Now, fewer people are listening to the radio (which is anyways playing far less new music), and as a result, older songs are becoming in many ways more popular than newer songs. Think about it: If you had an unlimited music subscription, all you’d do is go back and download all your favorite songs of all-time.

The Zune aims to bring new music back to the forefront. If anyone you know finds a cool new song, they can send it to you, for free for a limited time, and you can find out how cool it is. No sitting around, listening privately to music; now you can find new music without going to your computer. Allard hints that they might update the system next year to let PCs share with Zunes, further increasing the number of people in this wifi music network.

Here’s the one thing that’ll shoot this through the stratosphere: Microsoft needs to make all the music free, temporarily, randomly. Think about it: Ever Zune account should get access to 100 songs that have 3-day passes, and those songs should change randomly every 24 hours. Zune users could have the 100 songs dropped on their Zune’s every day automatically, and then hit to play random music to discover new stuff. Think of it as the next generation of shuffle.

If Microsoft makes discovering new music completely free and random, users will listen to a hell of a lot more music than they used to. All of a sudden, at any time, there’d be 300 new songs on your Zune (100 a day), songs you’d never heard, and some of them would be awesome. At the end of the three-day period, you’d have to buy the song to keep it. How many people would buy? A hell of a lot more than buy from iTunes (per iPod).

The Zune is about discovery. The iPod is about storage. If Microsoft makes the discovery perfect, they could actually win. My head is spinning about possibilities.

What about a billboard for a new CD that actually dropped the CD on any Zune that walked by? Eliminates street teams, that’s for sure!

What if a band is holding a concert, and sets up a Zune at the exit, broadcasting their entire music collection on wifi? As people left the concert, they’d have every song from the band on their player, for free, for three days. Want to bet that at the end of those three days, a lot of people who went to the concert will buy the songs off Zune Marketplace?

Damn, J, you might have something here! I’m going nuts with ideas. God, I hope they pull this off.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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Engadget Interviews J Allard On Zune
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