Zune Marketplace Takes EMI’s Lead

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The iTunes Music Store may be the first to offer DRM-free songs from EMI artists, but the Zune Marketplace won’t be far behind. Microsoft has plans to make the premium tracks available for download from its online store in the near future, and believes this move can only help promote healthier competition between the Zune and the iPod.

It was no secret that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was on hand when EMI made the announcement this week that it would be removing Digital Rights Management (DRM) from its online catalog. After all, the iTunes Music Store, as well as the iPod, are the driving forces in the digital music industry right now.

Microsoft, however, believes that Jobs’ presence may represent a bit of dramatic irony as such a shift in strategy from the record labels could represent more benefit to the Zune than the iPod.

“This does open things up a little bit," Zune Marketing Director Jason Reindorp said in a CNET article. "It potentially makes the competition more on a device-to-device or service-to-service basis. It will force the various services to really innovate.”

Microsoft doesn’t have a current time frame on when the unprotected tracks will be added to the Zune Marketplace. Apple expects to have the DRM-free songs available for download to iTunes users by May. One would assume that the music would be offered to Zune users shortly thereafter.

If all the record labels eventually come on board with this model, and device interoperability is achieved, the competition could shift from devices to the actual music services themselves.

If users can go to the Zune Marketplace or the iTunes Music Store and download the same tracks, then traditional factors such as price start to come into play. Audio quality is also an important component that will drive competition between Microsoft and Apple, as users are beginning to desire the option to download higher bitrate tracks, even if it costs them a little bit more to do so.

So while Steve Jobs enthusiastically applauded EMI’s decision to go DRM free, one has to wonder if this could be the beginning of the end for the Apple/iTunes stranglehold on the industry.

Zune Marketplace Takes EMI’s Lead
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  • Mo

    I really believe this caught Microsoft comepletely by surprise and now they are just saying stuff so they can figure out what to do next. Two weeks ago MS said selling non-DRM music was “irresponsible” and now it’s just peachy…what a bunch of clowns.

    Nobody said anything about EMI giving non-DRM music for Microsoft to sell, so this statement about doing just that is premature.

    For sure this new content from iTunes store will play on the Zune, as Zune supports industry standard AAC. I don’t see how this is a competitive advantage to MS as it takes customers away from their Marketplace to shop at the more popular iTunes store.

    For sure move this is another nail in the coffin of the inferior, completely proprietary WMA format AND the “Plays for Sure” joke. The chairs must be flying in Redmond this week.

    • goosnarrggh


      “EMI is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice.”

      Seems pretty clear to me from the press release that this is NOT an exclusive deal they have with Apple, but rather a new wholesale pricing scheme which will be made available to any online distributor who chooses to take on the new product line.

      Why would you expect MS not to jump on the opportunity?

    • DavidC

      Microsoft tried to end DRM protection well before Apple did… But Since most of the payed for music is downloaded off of iTunes
      The record labels didn’t care what Microsoft though, because they didn’t have a “strangle hold” on the payed for music market.

      But now that the Zune is out, and both Apple and Microsoft want to end the DRM the record companies are finally starting to listen.

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