Stephen H. Wildstrom at Business Week reviews the Zune, and unlike some of the more obnoxious Apple promoters out there in the mainstream press, he gets most of it right:
While I think iPod and iTunes will hang on to their leadership for now, an all-you-can-eat music subscription plan gives the Zune some real advantages.
Zune's ace in the hole may be its support for subscription music. For $14.95 a month, the Zune Pass gives you access to most of the 3 million tracks in the Zune Marketplace. (Some publishers and artists only allow purchases.)
Subscription music has been slow to catch on. But with sales of CDs and of copy-protected downloads both crumbling, it may represent the only viable long-term business model for the music industry—despite Apple's stubborn opposition. As it happens, the Zune Pass is too expensive and too restrictive.
So this is all true, and like most of the review, I agree with all of it. I've always said that, to succeed, subscription music services would have to cost $9.99 or preferably less. Zune Pass is a good idea. It's just too expensive. That said, as a heads-up, this isn't correct:
The music can be played only on Zunes, Xbox 360s, and Windows PCs. Even devices compatible with the older Microsoft PlaysforSure protection, such as the Sonos music system are left in the cold.
Not so. I downloaded a new Led Zeppelin collection, "Mothership," from the Zune Marketplace. Not only does it play fine in Windows Media Player, as alluded to above, it syncs fine to older PlaysForSure devices like an 18-month-old Creative Zen V. This means that the Zune Marketplace is still a viable source of music for non-Zune devices, even though you'll have to make the sync from WMP. This, to me, is the biggest problem with Zune 2.0: It's a fine music player/online service, but it can't be your only media player. It doesn't play DVD movies. It doesn't support a true full screen mode. It doesn't work with non-Zune devices. Etc.