Zune Swoon

zune23.jpgAs noted by MTV, the official announcement of Zune, Microsoft’s attempt to compete with the iPod, was made last week. Whatever hope I had for this device disappeared the moment I realized that Marketplace, the iTunes-like music store designed to feed the Zune, is yet another iteration of DRM, one that abandons the fledgling Plays For Sure standard:

Users can also share homemade recordings, playlists and pictures wirelessly with no restrictions, though Erickson said songs purchased from iTunes or other download stores that have digital rights-management protection will not play on the Zune.

This means that Rhapsody, AOL’s Music Now service, Napster, not to mention iTunes, are all left out in the cold with Zune. It had better be a damn good device, or Marketplace the be-all end-all store. Otherwise, Zune will end up a eCost closeout before next Christmas.

More bad news is that the rumored iTunes song buyback isn’t going to happen either, at least it wasn’t part of the announcement. Add to that the ridiculously overhyped wireless song sharing feature’s actual specifics, and it becomes clear that the only bit of foresight Microsoft had in creating this mess was offering one in brown.

Zune players connect to one another via Wi-Fi, and users can ship songs, playlists or photos to a friend’s device. Each song can be played three times before it will be disabled.

Reading between the lines, that means only Marketplace songs can be shared. Right, like real music fans are chomping at the bit to swap self-crippling content with their buddies.

It does have one intriguing feature, something I hope Apple or Creative Zen picks up when they roll out a Wi-Fi player:

At launch, Zune will include artist profiles, upcoming events, music suggestions and favorite play lists from musicians. Forums will be added later to encourage interaction between users…

I hope that means Wi-Fi streaming of concert announcements, early ticket sales and fan club only specials. Something like that could would be revolutionary.

Otherwise, most of what Zune promises is more clumsy me-too crap.

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Today’s Free Download – The Static Age

Blank ScreensBefore U2 became an IMPORTANT band, they made records like “Blank Screen,” the third long player from this Burlington, Vermont-based quartet. You know, when they were sort of nice boys, but two pints away from trashing the lobby. Then came Pride (In the Name of Love) and somehow you knew that presidential photo ops couldn’t be too far off.

I wish they’d made more songs like “I Will Follow,” and today’s free download’s a throwback to those innocent/dangerous times. “Cherry Red” is a melange of 80’s pop (thumping Police bass line with Translator orchestral flourishes) and Killers-like sinister sonic fury.

It would be easy to link to all three IODA Promonet free links on this post. “Trauma” and “Count the Dead” are also great tracks in their own way.

When faced with such conundrums, I always opt for that which feels closest to home, and “Cherry Red” tweaks the classic MTV nostalgia nagging me of late – particularly after watching “Vertigo,” the video from their last record, “Neon Nights Electric Lives.” Its sweeping keyboards, Cure haircuts and shadowy outdoor shots made me half expect Downtown Julie Brown to shout out “WUBBA, WUBBA, WUBBA” at the song’s end.

TSA is Higher Ground’s band of the month, with a show set for early October.

Blank Screens
The Static Age

ReIgnition Recordings

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Download “Cherry Red” (MP3, 192kbps)