Tuesday, March 13, 2007

MP3s, DRM & The Zune

I listened to Paul Thurrot's podcast - Windows Weekly - which is always interesting, especially with Vista upon us. Episode seventeen features an interview with David Caulton of the Microsoft Zune team. Although it isn't yet launched here in the UK there are several retailers that carry it. A couple of the guys who I work with have them and I have to say they are pretty sweet.
I have been pretty negative about iPods in the past and to be honest I don't see any reason to change my view. Apple need competition and I think the Zune is the gadget to do it - as long as they let it connect over 802.11 to a network rather than just peer-to-peer - having to hook something up with a cable to get content onto it seems very 20th century! The screen on the Zune is lovely - definately superior to the video iPod. The GUI is tasty as well (although missing any direct podcasting support!).

So, it got me thinking about buying music etc. and I realised that with the exception of a couple of quite niche music stores (including the splendid BillTunes) I still buy all my music as CDs. It seems that an industry that has spent a quarter of a century selling digital music without DRM (the compast disc) is now bleeting about how users can only use music they've paid for as the industry sees fit. I have several digital music players - car HD player, couple of cheap flash-based players, my PDA/'phone, and PCs running several different OSes - the only format they all support is MP3 and so I'm never going to download DRM-crippled music from an online store who haven't taken the care to compress the music properly. The 128kBit files from iTunes aren't HiFi (and they wouldn't play on ANY of my hardware!) and, in fact, there is no alternative for someone who (a) cares about the music, and (b) cares about how they spend their cash to buying CDs and ripping them yourself - you at least have a chance of making decent sounding MP3s at an acceptable bitrate (192kbits VBR - all the way baby!).


Kevin said...

Funny timing that you're blogging this. Just two hours ago I walked to a shop during my lunch hour and bough Nora Jones new CD (ssh, her Mums' day present). and ripped it using Express Rip from NCH.

I'll put it in our car MP3 player and maybe the computer we use downstairs, then the CD will just serve as a backup. I assume you saw Steve Jobs open letter here:


anyway, take good care,

revkev said...

Phil, as one of the owners of the said mp3 player I'd just like to say I love it. Yes its got its bad points but over all the good out way the bad. I've had many mp3 players in my time little 16mb sandisk one to the ipod and my "russian" as James used to put it Iriver H340. The H340 was one of the best player i ever had ran 2 OS's the iriver and rockbox open source I never thought i'd get rid of it, until the Zune came along. its sexy, it looks good and it works. The indexing copying library and tag support it does it all.

As for DRM as long as it doesn't stop me from doing what i need to do with the music, which is listen to it I don't mind it. Once i have problems moving from one device to another it all fails down and i start using Tunebite etc to remove the DRM.