Head Hurts

November 14th, 2006  |  Published in etc  |  1 Comment

Just go read “Zune Marketplace’s Absurd Pricing Scheme“, because I don’t want to deal with formatting the lists and tables involved in determining that a song purchased from the Zune store costs exactly 98.75 cents.

Well, o.k. Here’s a bit of it:

If you recall $5 [in Zune points – mph] is the lowest denomination you can purchase. So if you want to buy one song from the Zune Marketplace you have pay Microsoft $5 up front and let them keep your remaining 321 points (or $4.01, this is beginning to get confusing). Now, the expectation is that you will be back purchasing more songs (and more points) and so you won’t care about your balance. But, what you are in fact doing is giving an interest free loan to Microsoft (because they, of all companies, need the money).

Of course, you could just spend all of your points each time you buy music, but would require you to purchase songs in multiples of 31,600 points (that being the LCM of 79 & 400). That works out to 400 songs for $395. A better plan would be to buy 5 songs for 395 points (or $4.94) and just save your 5 remaining points for some future purchase. In effect, Microsoft has created a store that only accepts gift cards as the valid method of payments.

After some more tortured matherating, we get to the point of the whole Monopoly money approach to music purchases: It’s there to make life easier on people who also own XBoxes.

O.k. So everybody’s all, like, “Well, Mike has an iPod and I know he likes it, so he’s got that whole weird ‘consumer tribalism’ thing going on and he just wants to see Zune fail because if it doesn’t his nuts will shrivel up from the sudden lack of testosterone his very public failure to pick the very best gadget will induce.”

First, after however many years (4? 5?) of iPod market dominance, I’ll plead that buying a refurbished iPod seemed like a safe investment at the time.

Second, I think it’s more about a warped sort of disappointment in, of all companies, Microsoft.

See, we’ve been getting this steady stream of baloney from those people for a few years now about “Oh, we’ve learned!” and “Oh, we want to have conversations!” and “Oh, that’s the old Microsoft.”

I want to believe that crap because I’d like to put Microsoft on the list of solved problems some day, and it seems more likely to get there if it just goes ahead and has a corporate come-to-Jesus moment than if we sit around waiting for someone or something else to solve it, like, God help me, Linuxonethedesktop.

So when reporters started calling the Zune an “iPod killer” and talked about how Microsoft was gonna smack portable music/online music sales out of the park, my first thought was something generous, like “they’re gonna do a total end-run around DRM somehow … they’re gonna at least match iTMS for ease … they’re going to improve things both in the realm of design and maybe, somehow, societally. They’re Microsoft. They’re gigantic. If one of them actually screwed up his little face and made a little grunting noise, he could crap a ginormous turd of change that changed everything!”

It just didn’t occur to me that they’d create a fake currency that obfuscates their pricing and takes money from their customers in a scheme designed to always keep a few pennies in their coffers, while gouging people who bought music under their old “new Microsoft that really gets it” DRM scheme.

Oh, and from the official Zune site:

“Flea?” Anthony Kiedis asked, “Should we get Bill Gates up here to shake his groove thing?”

Bill Gates wasn’t at the Roxy tonight in West Hollywood, but honestly, nobody missed him. We had the Red Hot Chili Peppers burning up the stage with their full-out funk rock. We had a small legendary Sunset Boulevard club packed full of music fans. And we had the Zune™. Before the show started, people got a chance to check it out and learn what it can do.


And then there were the Chili Peppers: Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. They played most of the songs from their latest CD Stadium Arcadium, injected a little bit of the Clash’s “London Calling” and at the end of a night, which included the whole club singing along to “Higher Ground” and crowd surfing, lead singer Kiedis said “whoever said this show was gonna be a bunch of suits … they lied.”

“Welcome to the Social. After we crap on your hopes we’re going to make you watch as we demean the musicians of your youth.”



  1. pk says:

    November 14th, 2006 at 10:37 pm (#)

    Oh…oh, no.

    It would hurt worse if it hadn’t been 15 years since the last Chili Peppers album I cared about. But…”London Calling”? And how is it that Flea can close CBGB backing Patti Smith, and then do this? They’ll never back Hendrix in rock’n’roll heaven now.

    And your Zune Hypenator compiles on….

    It may be that they meant “social” to mean, like, “ice cream social” or “box social.” But all I get out of it is the same backwards-jargoning way they tried to make “office” a verb. It might as well say “welcome to the boardroom.”

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