Microsoft’s Zune won’t play Microsoft DRM-encumbered tracks?

Now the EFF informs us that your investment in Microsoft DRM-laden tracks may be wasted if you hope to take them on the road with Zune:

In yesterday’s announcement of the new Zune media player and Zune Marketplace, Microsoft (and many press reports) glossed over a remarkable misfeature that should demonstrate once and for all how DRM and the DMCA harm legitimate customers.

Microsoft’s Zune will not play protected Windows Media Audio and Video purchased or “rented” from Napster 2.0, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Unlimited, Movielink, Cinemanow, or any other online media service. That’s right — the media that Microsoft promised would Play For Sure doesn’t even play on Microsoft’s own device. Buried in footnote 4 of its press release, Microsoft clearly states that “Zune software can import audio files in unprotected WMA, MP3, AAC; photos in JPEG; and videos in WMV, MPEG-4, H.264” — protected WMA and WMV (not to mention iTunes DRMed AAC) are conspicuously absent.

But if you get a Zune anyway, you won’t have to worry about sharing those sharable tracks; if Medialoper is right, Zune will wrap a DRM layer around any sharable track making it unplayable after 3 plays:

Zune’s wireless music sharing is turning out to be one of those features that seemed better when it was just a rumor. While Zune users will be able share music with friends, there’s a catch (isn’t there always). As Jim noted earlier, recipients of shared songs will only be able to listen to them three times or for three days, whichever comes first. It sort of sounds like a really bad tire warranty.

Zune accomplishes this amazingly stupid feat by wrapping shared music in a proprietary layer of DRM, regardless of what format the original content may be in. If Microsoft’s claims are to be believed, this on-the-fly DRM will be seamless and automatic – which must be some kind of first for Microsoft.

DRM really is about digital restrictions management.

As if this isn’t embarassing enough, consider the name of the device. Microsoft named their newest device similarly to a French Canadian slang term for penis or vagina. Microsoft knew this and is apparently okay with it.

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Montreal told CanWest News Service that “it was pointed out to us” during focus groups in the province that the proposed brand name sounded much like a French-Canadian term used as a euphemism for penis or vagina.

The French word “zoune” and the variant “bizoune” typically serve as a less jolting way of referring to male or female genitalia when addressing children.

Suddenly Nintendo’s “Wii” device (pronounced “wee”) is becoming more clear.