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Microsoft, the Zune, and getting beaten at its own game

The Zune came out. Did you notice? More importantly, will you buy it? Probably not.

When I see things like Microsoft's newest Zune, I actually feel pity for the company. Where Microsoft is good, it's great. But where it's an also-ran, it stinks. The Zune is a product that never should have been born. It adds nothing to the industry.

Except a nifty "community website":

The Redmond-based company also announced an online community website for the range, dubbed Zune Social. The beta site allows users to interact with one another and to create user cards, highlighting their favourite and currently playing tracks. However, cards can?t be traded.

The "community," which goes by the name of "John" when he's not online, awaits the social with bated breath.

The only way the Zune ever becomes relevant as more than an also-ran storage device is when the world goes DRM-free. Ironic, that. Apple's iPod is popular, in part, because it does to music what Microsoft does to office productivity: locks it up in proprietary formats that only work with its own "player."

Maybe Apple will trade its proprietary Fairplay DRM in exchange for Microsoft opening up its Office file formats? And maybe pigs will buy a Zune.