microsoft continues to make stupid decisions

Microsoft unleashed the MSN Mobile Music Service the other day, and the sheer amount of stupid that came with it might be enough to accelerate global warming. At a time when music companies are finally letting go of the false promise that was Digital Rights Management, just weeks after Apple announced that its entire catalog will be DRM-free by the end of March, Microsoft activates a service in which the centerpiece is DRM.  In essence, MSN Mobile Music Service allows you to download music via your phone, and only your phone. You cannot transfer the music from the phone to another device. You cannot transfer music from your computer onto the phone. Phone only.

To try to salve the psychic wounds that the MSN Mobile Music service is sure to cause, Barry Collins conducted a scathing interview with Hugh Griffiths, Head of Mobile at Microsoft UK. Griffiths’s statements are too insulting to the reader to pass without comment, so excerpts below, my commentary in between.

Griffiths on why the service is so restrictive:

At the moment, to be honest with you, we don’t have the functionality in-house to provide a mechanism for transferring between mobile phones and PC. We don’t have that functionality available.

Let me get this straight. You, Microsoft, don’t have the technology available to transfer data from one machine to another. Alright. Allow me, then, to briefly sketch how such a miracle could be accomplished. First,  connect the phone to the computer with a USB cable. You know, a USB cable. Like the one that connects my iPod to my computer, or my printer to the computer, or a memory stick, or a mouse, or a 320 gigabyte external hard drive, or anything that ever needs to connect to a computer for any reason you could possibly think of.1 Get one of those. Then develop a simple piece of software that detects when the phone is connected, and upon connection, pops up the folder containing the phone’s music. How do I know there’s a folder in the phone that contains the music? Because my god damned cell phone doesn’t store data in a Khaydarin crystal. Then, allow me to drag and drop files from the cell phone folder, hypothetically titled, “My Cell Phone,” into my music folder, hypothetically titled, “My Music.” There. Miracle accomplished.

With the likes of iTunes and Amazon offering DRM-free music that you can play on any device, why would anyone choose the MSN Mobile service?

There may well be people who just want to listen to the track on their mobile alone.

Because if there’s anything people like, it’s paying for the same thing twice. Also, I’m certain no one will mind listening to music on the extremely excellent speakers with which all modern cell phones are equipped.

What is your message to consumers – why should I come to you instead of Amazon or iTunes? What do you offer that none of your competitors do?

There’s a whole bunch of people who are very loyal to MSN on the web and there’s now almost a million users of MSN Mobile every month, within the space of 12 months of it being launched.

Wow, a million users in the space of one year. Of course, Apple sold about twenty-two million iPods in the last three months,2 along with about four million iPhones, all of which are connected to iTunes and that little online music boutique they’ve got there.

The fee for downloading tracks – £1.50 [$2.00] – is relatively high compared to 79p [$1.00] on iTunes and less than that on certain Amazon tracks. Why is that?

We’re constantly reviewing our pricing and if we feel this price point is incorrect, we’ll look to amend it.

Let me save you some time here, Carnegie. Your price is incorrect. You may commence looking in to amending it.

If I buy these songs on your service – and they’re locked to my phone – what happens when I upgrade my phone in six months’ time?

Well, I think you know the answer to that.

What the hell does that mean?

Can you really expect people to buy music that’s locked to a device they upgrade every 12 to 18 months?

I didn’t realise phones were churning that quickly in the marketplace these days.

You didn’t? Isn’t it your job to know these things? Isn’t there an entire sub-industry whose sole function is to produce detailed reports on such matters? Shouldn’t you have read them?

In short, the MSN Mobile Music Network is an enormous ripoff, a service more interested in strangling consumer choice than making people happy. Anyone dumb enough to sign up for it deserves their fate.

  1. FYI, this is why the “U” in “USB” stands for “Universal.”
  2. This begs the question, Is there anyone left in the physical universe who does not own an iPod?


(1 Comment)

  1. Tall One wrote:

    Shorter Hugh Griffiths: MSN has just launched a service that provides an inferior product at a higher price point than all of our competitors. Suck it, consumer.

    Do they not WANT business? I don’t understand! The kind of BS he’s spouting in this interview sound like the type of things a rookie executive says at a start-up when he doesn’t know the market he’s working in. This is not a new company! These mistakes should no longer be made!