Stuart Dredge writes…
The killer app of Microsoft Zune was supposed to be its built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, which would let you merrily share music with other Zune owners, without fear of a big fat lawsuit from the music industry. And since iPod couldn’t do it, the feature seemed set to give Zune a real chance at toppling Apple’s market-dominating MP3 player.
Well, it hasn’t. And while it’s by no means Game Over for Zune – Microsoft tends to get its stabs at new markets right on the second or third attempt – the sharing feature has been… underwhelming. It’s hardly the global community of swap-happy Zune owners we were promised (mainly because much of the globe still can’t officially buy one).
But tell you what: by the time Zune does come out on this side of the Atlantic, I hope Microsoft has revamped the way Zunes share music. How? Read on to find out…
See, the problem with the way Zunes currently share music is that it’s too laborious. You have to do stuff – manually connect to the other person’s device, and click to send or receive each individual track. It’s a bit fiddly, and a bit annoying, which doesn’t bode well.
Here’s how it should work. Every Zune owner, once they’ve whacked their MP3 collection onto their Zune, should be asked to construct a 20-song playlist that they’d like to share with other Zune owners. Think of it like a mixtape for strangers (Kids, a mixtape was… well, just ask your indie uncle. The one with the faded Pixies t-shirt. Yes, I know it doesn’t fit him around the belly any more.)
Anyway, you’ve set up your playlist of the 20 songs you want strangers to hear. Now, whenever you come within Wi-Fi range of another Zune, your list of songs should automatically be transferred to their device. Not the songs, mind – just their identification data.
So, you’re sitting in the same pub as me, and you receive a notification saying ‘you’re within range of Stu’s Zune, and here’s his 20-song playlist. Fancy a listen?’ (obviously, this would be in Microsoft-speak). You could browse the tracks, and if they sound interesting, click ‘yes’ to have your Zune automatically download the playlist from Microsoft’s Zune Store, rather than from my Zune. That way, if I finish my pint and leave, you’re not left halfway through downloading a track.
Yes, okay, this would only work with songs that are available on the Zune Store. But that shouldn’t be a restriction, if Microsoft gets its licensing deals sorted out.
So, now you have my 20-song playlist, which you can listen to, say, three times. And then you can choose to either buy the playlist, or individual tracks from it. And here’s the cool thing – I get a cut of every track you buy. I’m making money from my supercool music tastes without even trying!
There’s other things that could be done – if you like my playlist, the ability to somehow connect and see what else I like, or even a full-fat social network so you can add me as one of your music friends. But what I’ve outlined above is the gist of it. Wouldn’t it be cool? And I can’t think of a reason why it shouldn’t work – on a business, technical or cultural level.
Anyone got any thoughts?