Through a partnership with Universal, Virgin Media said it plans to launch an unlimited music download subscription service. The well timed announcement comes just one day before a British report hits the public eye detailing how the creative and telecom industries should go about bumping up digital sales to cope with lost revenue due to online piracy.
"We listened to our customers, our fans, and our artists and we think that this is an opportunity to bring music to a wider audience," said Lucian Grainge, Universal Music chairman and CEO.
According to Reuters, people familiar with the service said it would cost around $16 to $24 per month. Both sides are describing the service as a world first, which would allow Virgin Media broadband customers to both listen to streaming tracks and download however many tracks and albums they want.
Unlike other unlimited subscription services, the downloadable MP3s won't come with any DRM shackles, which means the tracks can be transferred to and played from any MP3-capable device.
"This is really high stakes, if this can't work then what will," commented Mark Mulligan, an analyst with Jupiter.
The end may be nigh for the Zune. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came up with a measured reply – equal parts of realism and escapism – when queried about the Zune’s future by BusinessWeek editor Stephen Adler at the McGraw-Hill media conference in New York. Though Ballmer reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to the platform, he admitted that the company will not be pouring a lot of money into it.
He said that Zune is both a device and a service. “And the future may be the software/ecosystem on other devices,” Ballmer went on to add. This is being read as a veiled hint at Zune’s impending demise as a hardware platform; Zune may be reduced to an iTunes-like service for other hardware platforms.