Microsoft have just posted a press release regarding the expansion of their Zune services into new markets. Sadly the announcement is not a great on for Australians. The Zune Marketplace accompanying Music, TV shows and Movie rental service will now have select components available in select regions.
With Microsoft launching Windows Phone 7 later this year, one of the big questions is what the media offering would look like. This is Microsoft’s opportunity to have a legitimate competitor to market leader – Apple’s iTunes. The most compelling and unique features of the Zune Marketplace, is Zune Pass. This allows consumers to pay a monthly subscription fee and get access to Microsoft’s entire music library. Not only that, but keep 10 songs a month so if you ever decide to discontinue the service, those downloaded tracks are still yours.
So in this press release we discover that Australia won’t be getting Zune Pass, or a Music marketplace. What will be introduced in Australia is the the ability to rent movies from Zune Marketplace to your Windows-based PC and sync it to your WP7 device. This adds to the Zune Video Marketplace currently on offer in Australia via the Xbox 360.
Zune Marketplace will extend services to several markets in Europe and beyond.
Zune Pass (U.K., France, Italy and Spain). The monthly music subscription service will be available for 9.99 euros /8.99 pounds per month for unlimited download and streaming access to the Zune music catalog and will be accessible on Windows-based PCs, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE. The offer in the U.S. will remain at $14.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streaming access, with the ability to keep 10 MP3s per month.
Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.
Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere — on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.
Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.
So where does this leave Australian consumers who want to move to Windows Phone 7 ? Without a music store on offer from Microsoft, does that mean we’re really expected to purchase music through iTunes, then import to Zune Software, then Sync to the WP7 device. On a platform with lots of momentum, this announcement is a massive drawback to the platform. To be successful, WP7 needs to go feature for feature with competitors and in one key area – Media, WP7 is not even on the same page. This is incredibly frustrating considering Microsoft had a real opportunity to leapfrog the competition.
No word on-device podcast support, but chances are it’ll be the old download on desktop and sync to device game.
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