ZuneFest: Zune Social offers new way to share, while Zune Marketplace goes DRM-free

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Besides launching new Zune models, Microsoft has also given its Zune Marketplace music store some new features, and introduced a new online community called Zune Social.

The latter is really interesting. It lets people create a ‘Zune Card’ that automatically updates to track what they’re listening to on their Zune – recently played tracks and all-time favourites. The schtick is that other Zune owners can then listen to their friends’ Zune Cards and buy the tracks.

In the future, you’ll also be able to embed your Zune Card into your social networking profile or blog. Meanwhile, the Zune Social website will let you send song links and messages to friends, post comments on each other’s profiles, and get dynamic recommendations from the wider community based on their listening habits.

Meanwhile, the Zune Marketplace store has been redesigned, and for the first time will be selling thousands of music videos and offering free podcasts – bringing it into line with iTunes.

Also new is over a million DRM-free MP3 tracks, which represents a move away from Microsoft’s traditional preference for copyright protection on music. They haven’t said which record labels they’re offering the MP3s from, but my guess is EMI, possibly Universal Music Group, and likely a bunch of independent labels too.

In both cases, they’re welcome improvements that show Microsoft has been keeping tabs on online music developments and listening to its users.

Zune website

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Stuart Dredge