Microsoft officially announced Zune today and, despite some assurance that Playsforsure will continue — the message to its hardware partners couldn’t be more negative: do as I do, not as I say. I can only imagine what implications this may have on other Microsoft platforms. What if Microsoft isn’t satisfied with its smart phone market share? Will it provide its own? And Napster and the like won’t be the only ones feeling the heat of competition. What about MSN Music? Does it support the home team or the new castoffs?
In any case, in addition to the dubious headline-grabbing strategy of buying out the music purchases of iTMS customers, Microsoft is going after two areas where Apple has not pushed forward -Wi-Fi and recommendations. Yes, the iTunes Music Store has a variety of ways to discover music, such as iMixes and it’s “Just for you” recommendation engine, but the sum of it isn’t as effective as the recommendation engine on even, say, Yahoo! Music. I’m a bit skeptical of community recommendations like the kind Microsoft is promising, but they’re more effective if they’re explicit rather than implicit.
As a way of transferring music, Wi-Fi has some convenience advantages, but the intereting application comes from music sharing. The nut here is that the users will have to have music subscriptions — still a tough sell — for this to be effective.