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Microsoft Actually Did Something Downright Revolutionary With The Zune Today

Boy that should get some attention …

I typically place the day to day stuff about the Zune over at but today’s news deserves comment here as well (don’t worry, we wrote about this over there too).

As reported at Cnet and explained at the Zune Insider, Microsoft added something very cool to the Zune Pass program. The short explanation is this:

The Zune Pass music subscription program doesn’t leave you empty after each month of use. Now each month in the program includes 10 tracks that you get to own at the end of each month. Cancel, and the tracks are still yours. You can even burn them to CD if you want.

This changes everything, and then some.

First of all, the Zune Pass subscription program now can stay true to it’s claim of being a “music discovery” engine. Someone could spend a year in the engine, spend the money one might associate with 12 CDs and walk out with the ‘experience’ of having tried thousands of tracks – and still having 12 CDs worth of music in the end for their efforts.

It is truly the best of both worlds.

Secondly, the Zune (and Zune Pass) suddenly became a really good deal for music lovers. Instead of being the industry’s “solution to that pesky portable media player problem,” the Zune can now become part of the solution – in a way that’s “good” for both the industry and the end-user.

I’ve been a Zune Pass subscriber since the Zune came out. Microsoft has never paid a dime of my subscription fees yet I’ve loved the chance at listening to what I want, when I want it. Personally, the $15 a month seemed like a good deal. The ability to end each month with 10 tracks that are mine is but icing on the cake for me, but will cause a lot of people to finally give that cake a second look (and bite).

I’ve said in the past that Apple would have to respond to the music subscription options offered by Zune. Now they have no choice at all – and will be playing also-ran to Microsoft’s revolutionary first move in this space.

Smart move Redmond.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said that.

It feels good, don’t it?

You Can’t Handle The Truth About Podcasting

First, please watch this embedded clip from YouTube to put you in the proper mindset.

You can’t handle the truth!

Son, we work on an Internet that has limits. And these limits can’t be changed with men with vc funding – no matter how much you’ve got.

Who’s gonna stream to millions at once? You? You, Hulu?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You praise streaming and you curse the Podcast. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not admitting what I know: that streaming, while sexy, simply can’t scale.

And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, is the future of media online…

You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want portable time-shifted media. You need portable time-shifted media – without the restrictions that simply won’t scale.

We use words like streaming, drm, walls … we curse these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under tens of millions of dollars in funding without ever facing the truth, and then questions the manner in which I provide it!

I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you tell me how your plan on streaming to millions of users at the same time. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think our future is!

As much as I just enjoyed watching 30 Rock on Hulu a few minutes ago, …

Streaming won’t scale.

DRM won’t scale.

Devices that dial home with my watching habits won’t scale.

Oprah tried, and fell flat on her face, and then released everything she had via Podcast.

Did her impact change? Did she make any less money? Did they sell less copies of that “New Earth” book?

Do we have something to learn from Oprah?

Yes, we can track everything – but at some point it all falls apart. I point to the USSR and East Germany as recent examples.

Yes, we can stream video right now but it is simply nothing compared to a few million people watching American Idol on a Wednesday night. If you want the numbers television provides on our glorious Interweb then, dear friends, you’re going to have to find something that scales – something that “works.”

Podcasting can scale.

Without the need to call back home, without the need to worry about where every 1 and 0 is located, without the need to own it all, this can work. Podcasting can scale.

Streaming can’t.

DRM can’t.

You can’t handle the truth about Podcasting.


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DRM Free, AAC, Not MP3, Could It Be, Good For Me?

As much as I enjoy the Beatles, I was thrilled to “watch along at home” as EMI announced their new DRM-free offering.

You can read all of the specifics throughout Techmeme today – so I won’t even try to re-write what has already been re-writen a billion times.

But I will, of course, make a few comments.

Why AAC? Did those Apple guys really get the music industry to support the Apple Audio Codec? Umm, no, AAC is not owned by Apple, does not stand for Apple Audio Codec, and doesn’t have the licensing problems MP3 does, nor the baggage WMA brings to the table. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for more.

Did they do this to snub Microsoft? Again, … no. AAC works great on the Zune. Go nuts you Zuners.

Is DRM dead? No. DRM on purchased music is starting to die. It will remain on rented music and video, and the assorted ad-supported stuff (that we’re going to see more and more of). It has it’s place – but that place is heading towards supporting the customer, not frustrating them in the process.

Apple still needs a rentable music and movie scheme – and you know it is coming.

A great move today by Jobs that continues to entrench Apple as the center of this kind of good news.

And yes, it is good for all of us.

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How To Sell Your Video (Podcast or Otherwise) Content Direct To Tivo Owners (As Well As Anyone With A PC) In 3 Simple Steps


Tivo and Amazon got a lot of press today with their little announcement of Unbox integrating with our favorite little DVR box. You can, as always, catch the buzz at Techememe.

But this is considerably more important for the Podcaster. As I mentioned in January, Amazon is delivering Unbox content from

What does this mean?

1 – Video Podcaster gets account at Best I can read things, it’s even free for titles you got until February 28. Now you need to have a DVD master (Ninja via Unbox anyone?) and DVD quality content but for many Video Podcasters, this won’t be an issue.

2 – Sign up for the “Unbox Download to Own / Download to Rent” feature. As I read it, we got a 50/50 split.

3 – Wait 5 business days to get in their system and another 30 to get into Unbox.

Now I’m certainly not suggesting every hack with a webcam should get in on this deal. You need to have something worth selling (which means someone will buy it) but it looks like the path is there.

It’s a good day for all video content producers.

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Can We Not Just Talk About DRM?

Two interesting pieces on the DRM conversation today – one from PaidContent and the other from, of all places, Microsoft …

In relation to the Jobs piece, PaidContent writes;

The DRM itself is rooted in secrets—keys that unlock music—and a lot of smart people spen their time hacking those secrets. Jobs: “They are often successful in doing just that, so any company trying to protect content using a DRM must frequently update it with new and harder to discover secrets. It is a cat-and-mouse game.” Apple has been successful at keeping FairPlay updated so far, repairing “a few breaches.”

The sad thing about this cat-and-mouse game is that it isn’t about Apple engineers trying to make our lives better, it is about Apple engineers trying to limit the damage of the bad guys. I want the Apple engineers on my side creating more cool stuff? How about you?

The Zune Insider points out this fascinating nugget that I haven’t heard yet in today’s conversation;

Theoretically, it seems like both Steve J and Bill G both agree that the model – at least in its existing form – needs to change.

Cesar (Zune Insider author) harkens back to December when Gates too was complaining that DRM was in a sad state.

“People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

Yes, Bill Gates said that. Yes, he brought us the Zune. Yes, he brought us Plays for Sure. Yes, he knows it “ain’t right” yet.

DRM is a mess right now – both Gates and Jobs agree.

DRM has allowed us to do some cool things, but in relation to music sales, it seems to be far more effort than it is worth.

One more thought, and this one I seldom hear discussed:

If someone who would never buy the music ends up “stealing” the music – is it a loss?

I’m not trying to make the 13 year old excuse here. I’m a big boy who makes plenty of money selling my own content. I have no problem with people getting paid for selling theirs.

That kid they bring out every once in awhile on the news – the guy with 500 gigs of “stolen music.” You can’t tell me that if you took away his hard drive he’d drop by the local Target and pick up the CDs. It isn’t about the music – it is about collecting 500 gigs of something that you shouldn’t be collecting. Please notice something – the kid is 13 – that’s what they do.

But, when I look at the world of my customers, I don’t get mad at the people who will never buy my product. I instead do what I can for the people who will. I play to them. I develop enough hoops that if someone wanted my content, there is no easy free option out there – and I often find that to be enough.

I follow that with a value proposition that reminds them how much my content is worth and, bamm, I’m doing fine.

Oh, and yeah, I produce good content worth paying for.

If I built what I did around fear that someone somewhere might rip me off (instead of some one, somewhere, might buy my stuff), I’d be nowhere.

Just a thought.

How about we use DRM to enable new methods of consumption for the existing customer instead of panicing over someone who probably never would be a customer?

Just a thought.

I’m heading to bed.

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Steve’s Thoughts On Music – My Comments

In a surprising, and do I dare say personal, move, Steve Jobs issued a “Thoughts on Music” piece dealing with the sensitive topic of DRM, music protection and the record companies. He’s feeling some heat on FairPlay and has responded accordingly:

When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

He wanted to bring them a new audience with new consumption strategies and options. He offered a new marketplace. They responded with fear.

Funny thing is, I’ve often seen the same thing. Many of the info-marketers I deal with (actually, the ones I do business with) are very prosperity minded – they see opportunity as opportunity – not a chance for someone to rip them off. But a good chunk of people respond to my passion with the new opportunities in front of us with a “but they’ll rip me off” response. None of them have launched a Podcast yet.

Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.

That’s marketing for “we ain’t giving up the code.” Ignore that whole part – it’s something the lawyers made him put in there.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves.

Now that’s an angle I never thought about – but I don’t really know how true it is. Interesting fodder but …

The copy I bought and burned (I’ve been burned myself from buying music that I can’t re-download – I burn a backup of everything I buy) of the last U2 album is just as unprotected as anything I might buy at the record store.

I think there is still one in this town somewhere (record store – there are plenty of U2 albums).

I could let someone steal that just as easily as the copy of the previous album that I bought at a store.

Actually, the new one only has the title drawn on with a sharpie so it sure looks less official.

If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

Want a case study of what happens when you produce a media player with strong focus on protecting the music companies? Take a look at v1 of the Zune.

Wonder why it’s so hard to get a decent player that isn’t an iPod? Read Steve’s last quote one more time.

Sure, this was a CYA piece, but certainly one worthing thinking and talking about.

Question #1 – What would this media look like if players were built to keep the customer happy – instead of the music industry?

Question #2 – What would commerce look like if DRM wasn’t the most important issue?

Your thoughts?

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