Ed Bott’s take on Microsoft’s new Zune Pass update over at ZDNet is glowing. But there’s no part of it that I agree with. Where do we start?
Essentially, the price of the subscription service stays the same at $15, but now you are given 10 free “credits” to keep some of the tracks you have downloaded.
This means the subscription portion of the service costs an extra $5 per month. Nothing really new here: Yahoo was offering a $5 a month subscription service years ago, so its not like this price is some novel idea. Zune was overpriced to begin with.
Ed says that the end-to-end experience of a Zune is superior to Apple’s iTunes-iPod combination, and that he’s never had any kind of problem with the Zune Pass/Marketplace. But the end-to-end experience of an iPod and iTunes paved the way for the Zune, and Microsoft has only now been able to replicate anything close to what Apple has had for almost five years now.
Add to the fact you now have features like Genius, which further builds on the experience, and Apple is certainly ahead here by a longshot. Simply putting Wi-Fi on your device is not going to cut it, especially if there are so few Zunes out there that it’s nothing more than a gimmick anyway.
And Zune Marketplace and Zune Pass are not without issues that have been pointed out in the community, as well as when the entire service went down for 48 hours for “maintenance.” I can’t remember any time where iTunes was down for more than several minutes to an hour or so, ever.
Let’s put it this way: Apple won’t add a subscription service or any feature just because Microsoft’s doing it. To suggest that the new Zune Pass would be a success if iTunes finally adds subscription support is silly. Steve Jobs will add subscription support when the public demands it, not because Microsoft’s doing it with a player that Apple outsells a dozen times over. And so far, consumers seem to be happy to just own each and every track they own.
Plus, if they don’t want to own those tracks, they’re still going to P2P anyway. Let’s be honest here. It’s just an attempt to stay relevant with yet another gimmick. At this point though, what else can Microsoft do?
Update: Let me take a moment here to “revise and extend” my remarks, as they say. I don’t think it’s laughable that anyone could argue that the Zune is superior. However using subscription music to make that contention is.
There is no evidence at all that subscription music sells players. It’s been tried numerous times already, and not a single provider has done it successfully.
There are some good points to Zune, such as its far better DRM-free offerings compared to iTunes. But none of this so far has managed to dent Apple’s dominance, and that is pretty much a fact.
Update 2: I’ve gotten feedback that the original version of this post made it sound as if I was accusing Ed Bott of impropriety. My apologies to Ed–that wasn’t my intention, and I’ve edited the post to reflect that.