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RIP PlaysForSure

So you may have heard about Microsoft’s “Zune” initiative, which is a whole suite of media stuff — a line of players, software, a store — designed to take on Apple’s iTunes/iPod complex. And you may remember that Microsoft already has technology designed for this purpose, the PlaysForSure suite of protocols — the ones that they license to bunches of device manufacturers (iRiver, Creative, Toshiba, Dell) and services (URGE, Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo). And it turns out that Zune doesn’t work with PlaysforSure.

Microsoft seems to be pretending that this isn’t the end of the road for PFS, but c’mon. They’re going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting and developing Zune, it’s a major strategic move for them, they’ve decided internally that PFS isn’t good enough for Zune, and they still want people to believe that PFS is in anything other than legacy support mode at this point? Nobody’s stupid enough to buy that.

The irritating thing is, this is a stupid move. Yeah, Apple is still dominating the market right now, but the PFS ecosystem is getting better on a daily basis, and in another six months to a year, it’d probably start making noticeable inroads to Apple’s marketshare; in five years, the combined weight of every non-Apple company in the world would likely be enough to make Apple a niche player. But no. Microsoft is determined to learn the wrongest lesson of all from Apple, that a closed system controlled end-to-end by one company with no point of integration for anyone else (except through a stupid “dock accessories” connector) is the way to go. It’s frustratingly wrong, and will only hurt consumers as they get their choice of walled gardens, with no way for clever and innovative companies to get their products in the mix.

Comments | July 27, 2006

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