Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zune marketplace users (and others) hit by geotarding workarounds

I only personally know of two people who ever talk about the Zune - someone who goes to my church and works for Microsoft, and Steven Hodson, who writes the WinExtra blog (among other things). But the Zune apparently offers a whole range of services, including its own store (which you can visit at

Steven Hodson talks about the Zune in a recent post:

While most of the tech blogosphere either ignores or makes fun of Zune, and its marketplace as well as its streaming services, the fact is that it has been around for quite awhile and people like using it.

Well, at least in the U.S. it has, but that is about to change as different parts of the Zune ecosphere starts spreading beyond the U.S.

But wait a minute, you ask yourself. Isn't Hodson like Canadian and stuff? So how can he expertly talk about the Zune?

Very easily, as it turns out. Despite the best efforts of the Cabal TINC (an old Usenet joke), it is possible to get around any geographically based restriction (or geotarding). In Hodson's case, he just created a Microsoft account with a United States address, and he had access to all of the wonderful Zune stuff that we Americans take for granted.

But now that the Zune is officially offered in Canada, Hodson has a bit of a problem.

You see once Zune, and Xbox Live, are legally available in your country, and in my case it would be Canada, you are going to want to go into your profile and switch your setting to show your real country of origin – except you can’t.

I’m serious. There is no way possible for you to go to your Zune account, or your Xbox Live account and change your country.

Hodson then details all of the attempts he made to change his account to a Canadian account, and the frustrations that he's facing in his current US-Canada limbo.

And yes, Hodson admits that this is a problem of his own making. He was so eager to get Microsoft projects (in this case Zune and Xbox) that he gamed the system in order to get it.

And, Hodson admits, there IS a solution to his predicament.

You have to create a whole new Zune profile and Xbox Live account. This means new gamer tags and Zune tags. It means that all your achievements in Xbox Live are history. All your purchases – if you managed to make any – on Zune or Xbox are toast.

But wait – it gets even worse.

Because both your Zune profile and Xbox account are now tied in with your Windows Live ID (your Hotmail account) you will also have to kiss your email account good-bye.

I did some more reading, and learned that the Zune had actually been launched in Canada over two years ago WITHOUT an online store. In a May 7, 2008 article, the CBC explained some of the thorny issues at the time:

Microsoft Corp. is bringing the Zune, its answer to the iPod, to Canada, but the media player's initial launch will be hamstrung by the lack of an accompanying download store.

The company on Tuesday announced the Zune player will be available in stores here on June 13, making Canada the first country outside the United States to get the device. The online Zune marketplace, where device owners can purchase music and video content, however, won't be available on launch....

There are a number of factors that need to be sorted out before the online store can be made available here, said Elana Zur, product manager for Zune in Canada.

But while Zur and others were sorting out those factors, Canadians were figuring out how to get to the Zune Marketplace. Yes, they were. So Hodson isn't the only one who's having to deal with this right now.

Or perhaps I should correct myself, since Canadians don't have to deal with this yet. In its September 20 announcement, Microsoft named a bunch of countries that are getting access to the Zune Marketplace and related services. Canada wasn't in the list.

Zune Marketplace will extend services to several markets in Europe and beyond.

Zune Pass (U.K., France, Italy and Spain). The monthly music subscription service will be available for 9.99 euros /8.99 pounds per month for unlimited download and streaming access to the Zune music catalog and will be accessible on Windows-based PCs, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE. The offer in the U.S. will remain at $14.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streaming access, with the ability to keep 10 MP3s per month.

Music purchase (U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany). Expansion to these markets will enable consumers to purchase MP3s and listen on their Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 or any other device that supports MP3 format. Users will also be able to purchase music videos to enjoy on Windows-based PC, Windows Phone 7 and Zune on Xbox LIVE.

Video purchase (U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere — on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.

Movie rental (U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In addition to Zune video on Xbox LIVE, consumers in these countries will now be able to rent movies for viewing on their Windows-based PC or choose to sync the rental to their Windows Phone 7.

So if you live in Canada and want Zune stuff, you might as well keep on using that 90210 zip code.

Or buy an iPhone.
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