Microsoft Agrees To Put A Copyright Cop On The Zune

from the not-quite-how-you-grow-your-market-share dept

Want to know exactly what not to do in order to build up marketshare against a formidable competitor? It’s doing what Microsoft appears to be doing with the Zune: making it less useful for buyers. Remember, last month NBC Universal claimed that the reason it was keeping TV shows off of iTunes was because Apple refused to build a filter that would try to spot other unauthorized material and block it from getting on the iPod. So, with Microsoft announcing a deal to carry NBC TV shows for the Zune… the question had to be asked. And, yes, NBC is claiming that it went with Microsoft because Microsoft has agreed to build a copyright cop into the Zune. In other words, if you want the “legitimate” version of Heroes on your Zune, you may no longer be able to transfer lots of other content onto your Zune. This from the company that is already struggling to find people to buy a Zune.

It’s difficult to figure out which side is making the bigger mistake here, so we’ll just say that both companies are working hard to drag each other down. First off, Microsoft. Apparently not having learned anything from recent DRM debacles, building a special copyright cop into the Zune software immediately makes the device that much less useful. Any such filter will be more of a nuisance than anything else. While it may temporarily cause annoyance to some users, those who really want to get content onto their Zunes will figure out other ways — so this will only serve to piss them off. And, in many cases it will (yes, it will) stop the perfectly legitimate transfer of content to the Zune. So, it won’t serve the purpose, but it will piss people off. Why would anyone buy into that plan?

As for NBC, remember, we’re talking about TV shows here. TV shows that the company already distributes for free. You want as many people watching these shows as possible. Stop worrying about “piracy” and focus on making it as damn easy as possible for as many people to watch the shows as possible, and just include a few non-intrusive, non-annoying (but very entertaining) advertisements in there and everything will be great. Pissing off the very people you’re trying to get to watch your (free!) TV shows doesn’t seem like a strategy that’s going to make many fans happy. They have plenty of other options on what to do with their time. Even worse, making sure that the only way that owners of iPods (the dominant player in the market) can see your shows is to get them from unauthorized sources (of which there are plenty) doesn’t seem particularly smart.

These are rather simple things that should be obvious to anyone online at this point. That folks at Microsoft and NBC Universal seem to not realize them gives you a hint of what direction both companies are heading in with this effort. Update: Microsoft is denying the NY Times story. Update 2: Microsoft PR points us to Microsoft’s blog statement denying the story as well. Reading between the lines, it sounds like NBC brought it up and Microsoft basically said “we’ll think about it,” but hasn’t promised to do anything.

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Companies: apple, microsoft, nbc universal

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Comments on “Microsoft Agrees To Put A Copyright Cop On The Zune”

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sonofdot says:

Is it just me

Is it just me, or does it seem like the collective IQ of Microsoft has dropped dramatically since Billy G. announced his retirement, and Steve Balmer took the wheel? I’m no Bill Gates fan, but the company seemed to be smarter at business when he was at the helm. Gates gave us MS-DOS, Windows, Windows and more Windows, and Office, along with a number of strategic and successful purchases. Balmer has given us the Zune, Vista and the attempt to buy Yahoo, among other failures. Not that Gates didn’t have any failures, but Balmer sure seems to fail on a much grander scale, and in such obvious ways. Technically, Balmer may be a genius, but in the business sense, he’s better suited as the sycophant to Gates. Business-wise, Balmer seems dumber than a bag of hammers.

Warren (user link) says:

The real reason

I really think the reason NBC is so paranoid about copy protecting their TV shows is that they’re trying to protect their DVD sales. You get a bunch of commercial-free (or commercial-limited) digital copies of Heroes or other shows floating around, and people aren’t going to buy the DVD sets. That’s $50 a pop. NBC doesn’t care if it kills the Zune platform.

Microsoft is looking so short-term in this one that it’s scary. They’re trying so hard to get one over on Apple that they don’t see (or won’t see) that this could kill the Zune.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The real reason

Lets see… if I download the show w/ a few commercials for free on a SMALL 4:3 Zune screen & then I decide I actually like the show. I might then go out & buy the DVD I can then watch it on my 16:9 60″ LCD w/o any commercials.
Why are people in the entertainment industry so damn dumb? It would only help their DVD sales. I think its our turn we need to go on a viewer strike!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The real reason

Warren, why would that be the case? Everyone has the choice on whether or not they want to buy a TiVo and an HD subscription to a satellite company, and you can just pull the content right off there and cut the commercials out. Or you can leave it in the TiVo and press the skip button. The real reason to buy DVDs of any show is to have a box, a disc, and a few pieces of paper. There’s no logical reason for NBC to worry about fueling more piracy (assuming it really is harmful) when one person with one DVR hooked into their HD satellite receiver is as equally effective at distributing the exact same thing.

Rose M. Welch says:

Stupidity rules.

I watch House online with a few commercials. The commercials are shorter than on television, and they’re much less annoying and suprisingly creative. I don’t mind creative marketing. I welcome seeing ads about new products and advances with older products – I just don’t want to be annoyed by them. As far as ads go, it seems like those are the way to go because I’m not antagonized by the product.

My hubby won’t watch a movie on television unless it promises minimal commercial innteruptions, and I’ll bet it makes the commercials it does show worth more, because we’re not bombarded by several of them at once.

So commercials really aren’t bad.

But I won’t buy a products that tries to cripple me as a customer. At all. Lots of other people feel the same way. As more companies try this tactic, more customers will feel the crunch and turn to open products.

Bye, bye Zune, we barely knew ye!

Anonamoose Donkey says:

That's a small iceburg. Full steam ahead!

“[Another]… alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”

~ Steve Jobs
“Thoughts on Music”

Steven says:


It’s really amazing how dense these guys are.

I currently get most of the shows I watch from (rss feeds of torrents, probably not legit). Generally HD, commercials already removed. And, because I live on the west coast, they are occasionally downloaded before they actually air.

That is what NBC (and others) need to look at. They seem to see that type of service as their competition, but it should be their best friend.

Old_Paranoid says:

Copyright cop on a Zune?

I may work for Microsoft, but this strikes me as totally stupid. Microsoft’s updates of the Zune firmware have added a lot of functionality to already shipped devices. If I used any DRM content, I would be very unhappy with any attempt to change the DRM terms and conditions after the fact.

As for me, I only use MP3’s for music, so far I have been ripping them from my own discs. If I buy any, it will be from Amazon or some other provider of MP3’s.

As for video, my wife has been recording the stuff she wants off the air onto a DVD-R for 5 or 6 years now. I then rip it to the computer and can transform its format, if needed. Standard broadcast quality is more than adequate for small screens. Indeed, handheld viewing devices can use reduced resolution.

I made the ultimate choice with respect to the TV networks and movie studios years ago — I stopped watching anything they put out.

TheZorch (profile) says:

When will these people learn?

Sometimes I wonder if these people even want to make any money at all. If Microsoft does this and it starts messing up and deleting tracks that people ripped from CDs they own or videos they created themselves then I’ll have to say that the Zune is doomed. Ok, its already dead, but it will be gone much faster than its currently fading. The harder you locking something down the more its going to upset users and this has the potential of making the Zune absolutely useless.

whitneymcn (profile) says:

Disconnect between marketing and technology

The Zune fascinates me, in a horrible sort of way. From day one of the launch campaign it’s been clear that Microsoft saw how compelling a “social” media player could be and marketed the Zune accordingly (remember “welcome to the social?”); also from day one, the social components of the Zune have been half-assed, crippled, or both.

There’s great potential locked up in there somewhere, but it continues to look like it’s going to take every single year of that long haul that the company envisions to get to an offering that stands out from the pack.

James R says:

boycott Zune! I'm selling my Zune on Ebay.

I don’t want to be limited in anyway once I buy a product. Not that I download stuff via bittorent, but it’s already a big enough task to buy hardware from that evil, crappy company now I have a stripped down product when there are others available without the limitation. HOW F”ING NICE.

Now instead of watching NBC shows on Netflix online, I’ll download them illegally. I don’t want to reward Microsoft and/or NBC.

Bob V says:

Missed point

One thing I didn’t see in the post or in any comment is that this is a future option that they may work towards. WHat I got out of the times article is that NBC is getting more control over pricing and Microsoft is saying that sure we’ll look into making some sort of filter. Nowhere did is say this was a deal breaker.

This may be something NBC wants but I seriously doubt any type of filtering at an application level is really feasible or practical.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Someone needs to do some fact checking before they publish rumors.

Speaking of fact checking… if you had actually read the post you would have seen that I linked to Microsoft’s response (which you claim I did not) a full 5 hours before you posted your comment.

It’s great that you want to stand up for your employer, but blindly attacking us without reading doesn’t do you any favors.

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