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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), May 7th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    This is not surprising....

    I work less than a mile from a Microsoft campus.

    Seriously, I can feel the stupid from here.

    What? You don't believe me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    sonofdot, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Warren, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    How will it do this?

    Will little Billy's recording of his birthday party be removed?

    It's just like Google's new plan to add a program to filter out infringing content, I have no idea how it can work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Ima Fish, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    How would the Zune know the video file I transfered to it was an "illegal" copy of Heroes? Will it forbid any video file that did not have NBC approved DRM? I was seriously thinking of getting one of the 80 gig Zunes. Now I think I'll stick with Creative or Apple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Ima Fish, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:48am

    Re: The real reason

    "I really think the reason NBC is so paranoid about copy protecting their TV shows..."

    I think it's all a fa├žade to get a better deal out of Apple/iTunes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:52am

    forgot the Zune and Ipod with their DRM. Just buy something from China and play anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), May 7th, 2008 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Is it just me

    Well...let's be fair here.

    Yes Stevie has his...let's call them "personal challenges", but rumor has it that at last years company picnic, he came in first in the Chair-Toss event.

    That oughtta count for something, huh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonamoose Donkey, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Steven, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:08pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Old_Paranoid, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

    Keep supporting the companies that embrace new business models and let the rest go broke. They won't learn till they are eating out of the garbage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TheZorch, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    suezz, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:26pm


    this just proves that when microsoft says they listen to their customers they are talking about their "business partners" not the average joe consumer. so if anybody thinks microsoft is behind them or is supporting time to smell the coffee and kick their tail out the door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Robert, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    Re: The real reason

    They could fix that by releasing single episode DVDs or internet purchased released a week before the episodes air. Then the hardcore fans would pay money to get it ahead of time, and the free riders would watch it at its regular time and eat the commercials... just an idea

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    whitneymcn, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    This is just an excuse for NBC using Microsoft. Nothing will ever come of this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    John Doe, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    @ robert,

    1 person buys the dvd of the early eps. torrent the file to the masses........

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Dave, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Is it just me

    Do not forget Bill gave us Bob too, which we now enjoy in word as the agent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    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!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Stu, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:04pm

    So what are the particulars?

    Sounds like a lot of assumptions going is falling kind of stuff. I bet I don't notice a single issue on my Zune. Just like I haven't had any problems prior.

    We'll see, I guess.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:05pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Dave, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Good to know

    Thanks for the head's up! I'll remove Zune from my shopping list, not that it would have necessarily gotten on there anyway.

    Techdirt is the Best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    joe smith, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Is it just me

    Steve Ballmer was hired at the beginning of Microsoft to run the business side and has since than. He just can't seem to come up with any good ideas on his own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    mello151, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    Re: The real reason

    I totally agree with you. I found it out the hard way when my ISP sent me an email telling me that NBC Universal was pissed at me for downloading a Battlestar Galactica episode.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    James R, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Bob V, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:13pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Stu, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Missed point

    You are much too reasonable, Bob. Can't you at least call Microsoft 'stupid' or 'evil' or something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Fake Anonomous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:04pm

    Help, FSB dude

    Meeby that the Fake Steve Ballmer will show up sell me on a Zune, huh?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    aaaaa, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:49pm

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

    "We have no plans or commitments to implement any new type of content filtering in the Zune devices as part of our content distribution deal with NBC."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Mike (profile), May 8th, 2008 @ 12:56am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    J W, May 8th, 2008 @ 3:30am

    Serious updates that call an entire story into question would be best annotated towards the top of the story, rather than at the bottom. It's more useful for everyone, and cuts down on responses like Mr/Ms aaaaa's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Advertisement - Amazon Prime Music
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.