RIP: PlaysForSure 2004-2007

Microsoft concedes, as many predicted, that its Zune strategy can't happily coexist with a program designed to promote others' devices and services.

Microsoft has reached a turning point in its music strategy: admitting it has a problem.

When it first announced its Zune plans last year, the company denied that it would mark an end to its PlaysForSure program, an effort that aimed to unite various compatible devices and services using Microsoft's Windows Media technology.

Others, though, saw the writing clearly on the wall.

Microsoft was in a precarious place, though. It had lined up MTV Networks as a partner for its Urge service, which was to be part of Windows Vista. That service had not even formally launched yet, so it was tough to fully back away from its partnerships, even though the company was clearly planning to go it alone.

This week, Microsoft confirmed, though, that it is no longer planning to fly the PlaysForSure banner. Instead, services and devices can seek the far more generic "Certified for Windows Vista" logo.

Conceived in 2004, PlaysForSure was aimed at helping consumers understand that a wide range of devices and digital music services could be used with one another, boosting a strategy of "choice" as compared with the tight link between iTunes and iPod. With Zune, though, Microsoft decided that Apple was right.

The funny thing is, I think there was--and probably still is--merit to Microsoft's original argument. The problem wasn't the notion of PlaysForSure, it was the fact that the logo often overstated things. Not all PlaysForSure players could support subscription music, for example.

Apple's challenges with the labels, Hollywood studios, and NBC show some reasons why consumers might not want their device to work with only one service. I'd be much more likely to go with a device that could work with many good services than I am to choose Microsoft's lock-in over Apple's.

Is there anyone else who wishes that it was PlaysForSure that had survived the battle of competing music strategies?

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