The Null Device

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Having all but wiped out PalmOS and the PlayStation, Microsoft now targets its heavy artillery at Apple's iPod, and unveils its "iPod Killer", the Zune. Which has an iPod-like scroll wheel, a much bigger screen and more nifty-looking user interface, and WiFi-based media-sharing capabilities.

Oh, and it is also a laboratory for a new regime of total, absolute DRM control. Everything stored on a Zune will be DRM-locked, and while you can wirelessly "share" music with friends, you can only share it with each friend once, and the copy they get dies after 3 plays or 3 days. Since we know that only a negligible proportion of music is not owned by the RIAA, this applies to all music: which means that your own home recording is DRM-locked "just in case", as if it belonged to Big Copyright. Furthermore, if you copy that Creative Commons-licensed MP3 you just downloaded by that cool nerdcore rapper all your copyfighter friends are going on about to your Zune, it gets the shackles put on it, violating its Creative Commons license. Furthermore, apparently those PlaysForSure DRM-locked Windows Media files you bought from Napster or SpiralFrog won't work with your shiny new toy at all, because it's the wrong sort of DRM. Oh, and apparently that iPod-killingly nifty WiFi capability will run the battery down like nobody's business.

My prediction: the people who bought Zunes will feel they've been ripped off, and their players will gather dust in drawers. Meanwhile, the Zune will be quietly get dropped from advertising campaigns and catalogues sometime after the Christmas it's released on, shortly before being discontinued — to make room for Microsoft's next "iPod Killer".

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