updated 07:55 am EST, Thu November 20, 2008
Zune Pass Keeps Ten Tracks
Microsoft on Thursday gave its Zune Pass feature an upgrade by letting owners keep ten of the songs they download each month as part of the unlimited subscription service. The plan includes music from all four major labels as well as independents such as Arts & Crafts or Ghostly International and doesn't require any alterations to the $15 monthly subscription rate or to the choice of format for music, which can include either unprotected MP3s or the proprietary, locked Zune format.
Music from Sony and Universal is also being sold in MP3 form at the same time and should result in 90 percent of Zune Marketplace songs being available without copy protection, Microsoft adds.
Such mixed plans aren't new but are increasing in popularity with services such as Nokia's Comes With Music and are seen by the music industry as a potential solution to falling sales at some services. Both Microsoft's and Nokia's plans try to mitigate the fears of being locked out of music after canceling a subscription while still providing some of the advantages of unlimited access, such as being able to download the same tracks as friends or to subscribe to curated playlists like Zune Channels.
Apple has been historically resistant to unlimited plans and saw its company chief Steve Jobs famously criticize them for pushing users to "rent" music and distort the ownership experience. However, the addition of a partly permanent option is relatively new to the industry and has yet to be tested on a larger scale.