Welcome to the Unsociable

For some time now, Microsoft has been reminding me of a beached whale, or perhaps a man so morbidly obese that he is barely even aware of the multiple spears stuck in his flesh, to say nothing of the basketball-sized tumors growing within him. I would say that the company is flailing wildly, but “flail” implies a certain un-Microsoft-ian vigor. I see now that some music companies decided that the Zune”s much maligned “three days, three plays” policy wasn’t quite stingy enough, and prohibit Zune-to-Zune sharing entirely for certain songs. Given that wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing was arguably the Zune’s only significant innovation or selling point, this revelation removes one of the few remaining differences between a Zune and a wood chip. Remind me why it was, again, that Microsoft bothered with the wireless at all? How many millions of dollars have they thrown away building in and then crippling the wireless features?

I was also struck that there is no mention at all of Zune-to-Zune sharing in the Zune terms of service. At least Microsoft wasn’t stupid enough to promise that sharing would work, but it strikes me as a bad idea not to have specifically disclaimed any promises about sharing functionality. Some of Microsoft’s web pages do indeed carry a disclaimer: “The Zune to Zune sharing feature may not be available for all audio files on your device … .” But other pages don’t, even though they say such things as, “Beam your beats with wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing.” The potential false-advertising liability—to say nothing of the potential terrible publicity just from having such lawsuits filed—is immense. There’s enough space here between statement and disclaimer that the revelation that Microsoft deliberately disables sharing for some files could be dangerous. Something not working because it failed is different from something not working because you broke it, ethically and sometimes also legally.

Some people are saying that the Apple iPhone will kill the Zune. I disagree; the cause of death will be suicide.