Wherein All Is Revealed!
I’ve used a lot of wiggle language and grim turns of phrase, but I am not actually unhappy with my purchase. As the only person outside of Microsoft’s blogger phalanx to appreciate the device, it feels very much like I should be. It presents interesting "scenarios", but opportunities to use them are (for me) so rare that they never factored into my decision making process. I would say that there are three key reasons I own one, which might help you make sense of it.
I purchased an iPod Nano for Brenna several months ago, and we have had nothing but problems. I’ve never heard of this, not from anyone, so I’m not trying to give this paragraph a sinister undercurrent - but for me, the iPod is not a no brainer purchase. My many failed attempts at resolving our issues with the machine make the overriding mental image I associate with the brand not "the unfettered joy of the music lifestyle," but rather "being dragged by slavering dogs through broken whiskey bottles."
Two, I didn’t really own a competent MP3 player. As a member of this ostracized sect, my ways can afford to be a little eclectic.
The most powerful motivator for me was the "Zune Pass," which is virtually identical to something I was already subscribing to - Napster. When you’re at your desk, you have almost unfettered access to a gigantic database of music, and since we listen to streamed playlists practically all day, the value for us is stratospheric even when not partnered with a mobile component. With the service, you can copy the same stuff - stuff you don’t technically own - and listen to it portably, even though portably may not even be a word. It’s basically a way to subscribe to The Year 2000, when you could download anything you wanted without the RIAA hauling your grandmother into court.
It’s true enough that when you stop subscribing, you lose access to that music - but at fifteen dollars a month, that’s less than a Goddamn CD. I can’t make it out of Sonic Boom Records for less than forty dollars these days, so the idea that there may be some theoretical month where I wouldn’t have bought an album isn’t really compelling to me. Broken down further, Item Three here has two corollaries, A and B.
A states that, in the unlikely event that I meet another Zune Owner, having a subscription to the service means that the Three Days/Three Plays thing doesn’t really exist for most songs - I can sync the device and gain unfettered access to the tracks. Will this ever happen? I think they have enough money to bring the device to Critical Mass, yes.
B implies that, by using the "Pass" rather than buying the tracks, by (in effect) leasing the Library, I’m not out a ton of accrued music in two years if I choose to switch to an iPod or some new Korean device, twinkling (as they do) with LEDs. I consider this one pretty serious.
By this time next year, when they’ve released several flash-based players in a variety of form factors, when the entirety of the Zune Philosophy is revealed, maybe it will appeal to a larger audience. As it stands, I’m happy to own it, but - as you can see - it takes six paragraphs to explain why.