Microsoft reduces number of allowed devices for Zune Pass

The Zune music service never really made a great impact in the marketplace, but it certainly attracted a faithful following among diehard fans who purchased Zune-branded players. However, more recently, it has been introduced to a much larger number of users thanks to its availability on Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360 in various regions.  

The key to the service’s admittedly modest success so far, has been the Zune Music Pass, a DRM-protected music subscription service which allows users to download and stream as much music as they like for as long as they maintain their monthly subscription. In the US, subscribers are also gifted ten DRM-free songs per month, which can be retained even if the subscription is cancelled.

For Zune Music Pass users, this is a pretty sweet deal, and it’s been made that little bit sweeter by the facility to associate numerous devices with the Pass, so that users can enjoy their music at home or at work, on PCs, phones, Xboxes or Zune players.

So today, Zune users may be slightly irked to hear that from 13 September 2011, the company is reducing the number of devices to which Zune Music Pass content can be downloaded, from the current level of six (3 PCs and 3 Windows Phones) to just four (at least one PC, plus any combination of 3 PCs or Windows Phones).

No reason has been given for the change, and the email makes it clear that subscribers’ continued use of Zune Music Pass beyond 13 September will implicitly confirm their agreement to the new arrangements.  

Interestingly, the email excludes any mention of Zune hardware, so it may be that these changes do not affect users in the US or Canada (these are the only markets where Zune player hardware has been made officially available by Microsoft).


Update: As noted in comments below, and reported at LiveSide.net, it seems that these changes will affect Zune Music Pass subscribers in Europe only. Thanks to Omen1393 for pointing this out.

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24 Comments

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I kind of wish they would explain why they made the change. I'm assuming it wasn't entirely their decision to make.

So let me get this straight. Europe dont get the free songs and now they get more restrictions and even pay more.
Why bother?
Its not worth it.

the better twin said,
So let me get this straight. Europe dont get the free songs and now they get more restrictions and even pay more.
Why bother?
Its not worth it.

Exactly. People in Europe getting ripped off... again!!!

As others have pointed out this is a EU thing and probably done due to the request from the content/media holders so that MS can spread the Zune Pass support to more EU countries, since it doesn't cover all of them right now.

GP007 said,
As others have pointed out this is a EU thing and probably done due to the request from the content/media holders so that MS can spread the Zune Pass support to more EU countries, since it doesn't cover all of them right now.

I'm hopefull that it will mean more features/less restrictions (yes I know it inherently adding a restriction, but its not an issue if you dont use more that that amount of devices). What I mean is more songs available (quite a few artists only have a splattering of tracks, some not at all) and possibly the 10 free tracks like you get in the states. I know the labels are playing hardball and thats why its taken MS so long to get this going outside the US, with mango aproaching and a big sales push it seems like MS are making the necissary deals with the labels to really push the platform. iTunes has the labels by the balls so its natural they would want more control this time round (looking to the future when WP overtakes iOS )

I'd love to try it out but every time I try to sign up for a trial or buy a month it always refuses my card details.

Apparently a few others in the UK have this issue too.

aquanaut88 said,
I had this trouble at first -- I ended up having to register my credit card over the phone.

cheers

Oh thanks mate will give that a go!

I had a similar issue when I tried to change my credit card details - all hell broke loose, and like aquanaut88, I had to call to get it resolved. Very helpful customer care team though! Also note that you can't use UK debit cards - credit cards only.

I've had a Zune pass since April, mostly for use with my HD7. If you need 120 mp3's (no DRM restrictions), then the annual pass deal is the best one out there.

Zune Pass allows you to download most of what's out there as DRM protected WMA files. These can be accessed by multiple ZUNE devices like Zune on computer, WP7, XBox and of course, Zune players (out of production now).

Positives: anything you download you can take with you and play even without internet connection. Much easier organization and sync process than iTunes. Don't have an xbox, but can tell you presentation on PC and HD7 is beautiful -- graphics, organization, fonts -- first class job all the way. Purchased mp3's are 320Kbps or 256Kbps depending on what's best available. Dukes of Stratosphere (XTC) were aquired as 320Kbps.

Negatives: some artists limit or entirely prevent their content from Zune Pass. Examples -- Led Zepplin, Beatles, Eagles, Peter Gabriel amongst others. Except for the Beatles, the other artists offer their works for purchase only. And the 'free' 10 mp3s each month don't work with these artists either -- only Zune Pass content.

All of this is based on my experience using a U.S. credit card/address while living in Asia. I can say that I'm highly likely to renew my subscription when it expires next April.

Cheers

"The Zune music service never really made a great impact in the marketplace..."

You're joking, right? I'm quite sure that Ping didn't exist before the Zune social. Spotify seems to have come after the Zune Pass. Other things as well.

Anyhow, it's quite mysterious why they've chosen to reduce it to 4. The record companies pushing down on MS or what? Would really like to know.

No, I'm not joking. The Zune Social was hardly a roaring success, and yes, Spotify came after the Zune Pass, but the Zune Pass came long after other services such as Rhapsody (which started as a streaming music subscription service in 2001). Napster was also offering a similar service in 2003.

Even if we were to generously credit Zune with influencing great shifts in the digital music space - which it hasn't - the fact remains that it's never achieved any kind of volume in its sales, and until Windows Phone 7, it wasn't even available outside of the US.

Once these facts are considered, I can't see by what measure anyone could consider it to have had any kind of significant impact in the marketplace, whether globally or domestically within the US.

gcaw said,
No, I'm not joking. The Zune Social was hardly a roaring success, and yes, Spotify came after the Zune Pass, but the Zune Pass came long after other services such as Rhapsody (which started as a streaming music subscription service in 2001). Napster was also offering a similar service in 2003.

Even if we were to generously credit Zune with influencing great shifts in the digital music space - which it hasn't - the fact remains that it's never achieved any kind of volume in its sales, and until Windows Phone 7, it wasn't even available outside of the US.

Once these facts are considered, I can't see by what measure anyone could consider it to have had any kind of significant impact in the marketplace, whether globally or domestically within the US.

Get your facts straightened out and, and then separate them from your opinions.

1) Zune is the 'successor' to PlaysforSure. Microsoft wanted to use the new subscription model extensions that Zune Market offers, yet MFRs were intimidated by Apple at this time and simply didn't want to take the risk.

2) As #1 explains, Microsoft did not want to make hardware, so the Zune hardware was a reluctant, but necessary part of the process. Microsoft wanted it to do well, but never saw it as taking over Apple's iPod, they just wanted it to do well enough that other MFRs would build the hardware and use the new technologies.

2) Things you mention like Rhapsody, were built on Microsoft PlaysforSure, and Microsoft WMA DRM. (Zune's model and protection technologies are essentially PlaysforSure v2.) So you discount Microsoft because Rhapsody was around first, but it was Microsoft that made it possible for them to exist. (You are too stuck on the word 'Zune' and not seeing the technologies.)

3) Impact? Well Zune did have an impact in the music an online content distribution industries. It also had a fairly major impact on the portable device market. If you really don't know what these things are, you should maybe look up a topic before writing about it, and especially before berating a person commenting on the subject.

Here are some things you should realize and know the answers...

1) What 'technically' was the first Zune hardware device?
---Answer--- The XBox 360. Although XBox Live's Video and Audio were not Zune branded, it used the Microsoft technologies that we know as Zune.

2) What technology offered the first HD video and 1080p Video Rental?
---Answer--- Zune

3) What technology offered the first Instant HD video streaming, and 1080p instant streaming?
---Answer--- Zune

4) What technology introduced the concept of Smooth Streaming, so that users would no longer have jerky video or 'buffering...' appear on the screen?
---Answer--- Zune

5) What portable Device was the first to use a high powered GPU, capable of original XBox class gaming?
---Answer--- Zune

6) What portable Device was the showcase that made screen technologies, especially Gorilla Glass and OMLED credible, and make the more mainstream?
---Answer--- Zune

(PS Apple couldn't get Gorilla Glass as cheap as they wanted, and ended up trying to 'reverse engineer' the technology for the iPhone4, and even though they did a good job of semi scratch proof, they did not get the 'flexibility' portion of Gorilla Glass, which is why iPhones easily crack and facture, where the good old ZuneHDs and WP7 phones with Gorilla Glass do not.)

7) What portable media player introduced the concept of WiFi Syncing of media content let alone having WiFI standard?
---Answer--- Zune (Sadly, iPhone/iPod still do not yet offer this, and I have had Zunes in my Cars for several years that I haven't had to unplug from the car, as it updates itself or I can put content on it while it is in the car.)


And we could go on for a while...

The point here is that you cannot just see the brand name 'Zune' and only associate things released with 'Zune' on it, and ignore all the technologies that are a part of the Zune ecosystem. I know most people don't think 'XBox' or Smooth Stream or 1080p video rentals and stop to realize the base technologies are from the Zune project and Zune Market.

Also, Zune is not done, WP7 is just the newer version of Zune hardware, and is more of what Microsoft wanted from the begining as they didn't want to make the hardware, just the technologies to make the hardware work.

The Zune name needs to go away, so goofs, like you, stop discounting the vast array of technologies that are from Zune, and can stop to see these technologies in proper perspective, instead of through a 'Zune was crap' lens.

I know Netflix appreciates Zune, as their entire video streaming model was originally based off of the Microsoft smooth stream and WMV technologies that CAME from the Zune project, even before the project was called 'Zune'.

Do you think Netflix changed the industry any? If so, then Zune changed the industry.

Do you think the XBox 360 and its Video Rental/Sales/Streaming features changed the industry? If so, then Zune changed the industry. (Especially when it made 1080p common for video rental/purchase and later instant streaming all based on Zune technologies.)

Get it yet?

Oh, and Zune Marketplace, just music alone, which is where Apple rules, Zune offers almost as many songs and albums as iTunes, and it does this without the 'world' market that creates a larger catalog for iTunes. It also is able to provide 99% of the music to Zune Pass users.

Zune is the #2 music provider, the #1 online video rental/sales provider.


And ya, the ZuneHD did change how portable devices were made. People started to get used to not needing a screen protector, and got used to having WiFi, and got used to having multi-point touch with pressure sensitive screen running a GPU that is faster than some smart phones today.

I hope you don't take this post as a 'slap', but actually stop and go, well TheNetAvenger has point here, is not so right here, is dead on here, and so on...


I am not a professional journalist or even an amateur blogger, I just lead a computer science research team. And it is this type of technology and industry shifts we work with.

As impressive as your knowledge is, none of these points or facts is incompatible with the point that I was making. Being first to do things isn't the same as making an impact on the market. You can be a trailblazer but still be a market failure.

Also, while I'm sure you had a lot of fun coming up with all the points to try to prove me wrong and to prove me right, the original sentence was "the Zune music service never really made a great impact in the marketplace"; talking about HD video streaming and hardware might make you feel good about reinforcing your point, but it's actually entirely irrelevant to that original point.

You also say that I'm too hung up on the word 'Zune', but we're talking here about Microsoft making changes to the Zune-branded service; not to the underlying technologies that drive the service. Believe it or not, you're not the only person who knows that Rhapsody was built on the same technologies that now drive Zune, but that's got nothing to do with what I was talking about. The *Zune music service* - not the Zune technologies or their predecessors and forebears - has not made a significant impact on the marketplace. In this instance, because we're examining changes to the Zune-branded service, it makes no sense to drag in all of the underlying technologies. Zune - as a marketed entity used to promote a range of services - has hardly dented the marketplace. The underlying technologies have made Microsoft a pile of cash, and have indeed been used in numerous other services. That is irrelevant here.

The changes that Microsoft is making do not affect other services that use the same underlying technologies. They affect the Zune-branded service only. We're not talking about the tech; we're talking about the branded service. For all of your ramblings, I don't understand why you can't make that distinction here.

Talking to me like I'm an idiot and you're the only in the know might make you feel good about yourself, but when you waffle on incoherently, making points that aren't relevant to the one that you're trying to disprove, it doesn't make me look like a fool or a "goof", as you called me; it makes you look like an arrogant know-it-all with a chip on his shoulder.

But thanks for playing.

damn I didn't know you could keep 10 songs "free" with it too. I might have to sign up for it. does it still have the songs in wma or does it give you the option for mp3 as well?

macrosslover said,
damn I didn't know you could keep 10 songs "free" with it too. I might have to sign up for it. does it still have the songs in wma or does it give you the option for mp3 as well?

The free songs are usually in MP3 format, same as purchased. I haven't seen any in WMA in a while, though it used to happen.

macrosslover said,
damn I didn't know you could keep 10 songs "free" with it too. I might have to sign up for it. does it still have the songs in wma or does it give you the option for mp3 as well?
If you are in the U.S. the answer is yes. They still offer 10 free tracks per month and all Zune Pass music content is in MP3 format

macrosslover said,
damn I didn't know you could keep 10 songs "free" with it too. I might have to sign up for it. does it still have the songs in wma or does it give you the option for mp3 as well?

Purchased content is all in MP3 320kbps format, and the 10 free songs are in MP3 320kbps format. They are normal MP3s, and they don't have any DRM or Protection, so use them in any way you want from burning to CDs to loading on your iPod.

Zune Pass (unlimited access to everything) is in WMA format, because it needs the WMA protection technology so that the songs expire if you don't renew the subscription. (So when people talk about Zune Pass content or Zune Pass songs, they are referencing the WMA protected songs that expire if you turn off your subscription.)

Zune Pass also works is various ways, from downloading the songs to devices and computers, to live streaming the music, or live streaming a 'smart mix' based on your selection which is a lot like Last.fm or other 'radio' type service.

Also what is 'not' mentioned in the article is that Zune Pass 'also' works on your XBox 360, and it is also accessible from a web browser, and these DO NOT count against your activated devices.


So it works like this in the end, even if the article doesn't mention it...

3 Zune Software Activated PCs - can share or stream to unlimited PCs in your home.
3 Zune Music Players (WP7, Zune, ZuneHD)
Unlimited XBox 360s, can only be logged into one at a time.
Unlimited Web Browsers, can be logged at a few locations, can't remember the max concurrent logins.

Also worth noting, the 3 Activated PCs can 'stream' the downloaded Zune Pass songs to ANY PCs in your home, or be accessed from over your home network from any PC or even several XBoxs and other devices throughout your home. So in my example, I only keep two PCs with Zune Software loaded and 'activated', yet I have several computers and media devices in my home, and they all gain access to my Zune Pass downloaded songs. The other PC I keep activated is my primary Laptop I take everywhere.

So even though Zune Software can only be activated to download Zune Pass songs on 3 PCs, you have access to the songs from any computer and most devices on your network, as it handles the copy protection seamlessly.


So Zune is the best of iTunes, the best of Last.fm, the best of Rhapsody, and it also has a very large selection of music, with very few limitations. (And if you figure you are going to buy 10 songs a month anyway, the unlimited access to all songs is costing only $5 on top of the $10 song purchases.)

I have literally watched people that were horrible torrent music pirates convert to Zune Pass so they have instant and easy and legal access to anything they want. So if it can convert people paying $0 for music, it is definitely worth looking at if you are buying music legally.

Omen1393 said,
For the record, it's only reducing the number in europ, it already is at 3 devices and 3 computers in the US. See here: http://www.liveside.net/2011/0...ming-to-european-customers/

I would imagine record label pressure forced this, so long as it results in more labels/choice I'm not too fussed as I only have one phone, one xbox and 2 PC's I 'need' to use it on, besides any others I can simply stream the music on anyway, no biggie.

The issue I have though, is removing an old device and adding a new one, say when I format my PC (Like I have recently), it seems like I have to dance through hoops to do this....