A couple weeks ago, after being briefed on the new Zune, a colleague described some of its features to his teenage daughter. She responded positively to the Wi-Fi download feature, but was skeptical about the "Buy from FM" concept that lets people tag songs they hear on the Zune's built-in radio for later purchase.
Would lots of radio stations actually support this feature or would it be relegated to a narrow niche like XM radio? (Her example, not mine.)
She need not have worried. On Monday, Microsoft announced that many of the largest radio conglomerates in the U.S., including giant Clear Channel, would support the RDS tagging technology necessary for this feature.
Let me just get this out of the way: I find commercial music radio to be way too narrow and repetitive, I hardly ever listen to it, and I don't get any new music recommendations from it. But I'm in the minority. A Microsoft-commissioned study recently showed that more than 60 percent of music listeners still use radio as their primary source for discovering new tunes.
So this is a win for Microsoft. While Clear Channel was rightly reviled earlier this decade for allegedly accepting money and other compensation from brokers to play particular tracks, it's still the big gun of U.S. radio, with 9 percent ownership. (That's about 1,200 stations.) Other partners announced Monday include Citadel (with more than 200 stations), CBS Radio (with 140 stations), Entercom (110 stations), and Cox (86 stations).
When the feature launches on September 16, it will immediately work with 450 stations across the U.S., with many more to come.