Zune's fascinating potential


Mostly because of iPod's massive market share and the large investment many iPod owners have in music purchased from iTunes, adoption of the music subscription services has been anemic. And, arguably, Microsoft's PlaysForSure digital rights management scheme used by the subscription services is clumsy to use at times.

Still, subscription services as a concept are appealing: For roughly the price of a CD each month, you can download as much music for your media player and PC as you want. By combining both the purchase and subscription models, Zune Marketplace offers something compelling that Apple does not.

True, Napster, Rhapsody and the other subscription services offer the same combination of media for sale and rent, but, like iPod/iTunes, connecting a Zune to the Zune marketplace is a truly unified experience. In the left pane of the Zune software, for instance, there are controls for managing the Zune device.

The Zune software itself is nicely done. Like the Zune player, it is simple and uncluttered, with bright, attractive graphics. This simplicity translates into ease of use.

Incidentally, if you already subscribe to a music service, you won't be able to play that music on you Zune or connect the Zune to the service. Microsoft, which powers those services with PlaysForSure, has gone to a separate, proprietary DRM scheme for Zune Marketplace.