In a move that’s supposedly all about making things simpler for consumers, Microsoft has decided to rebrand its PlaysForSure media compatibility platform as “Certified for Windows Vista.” As originally envisioned—and Microsoft swears this remains unchanged—PlaysForSure was designed to let consumers know when digital meda and digital media players were compatible with one another: if someone bought a music player from (say) SanDisk and wanted to buy music from (say) Yahoo Music, the presence of the PlaysForSure logo was to tell consumers that, yes, that device ought to work with that service. PlaysForSure was a certification that a product or service worked within the Microsoft digital media ecosystem.
Of course, when Microsoft itself decided it wanted to enter the digital media player market with the Zune, the company itself did not participate in the PlaysForSure platform, instead opting for a new Zune-specific digital rights management system to power the Zune and the Zune Marketplace. Vendors who’d been doggedly trying to make the PlaysForSure platform work felt betrayed: they’d been taking crap from Microsoft and partners for failing to compete with the iPod juggernaut, and when Microsoft finally decided it wanted to take on Apple…they didn’t think PlaysForSure was up to the task either.
Now, the Redmond giant is rebranding PlaysForSure as “Certified for Windows Vista.” Supposedly, the move is to make things simpler for consumers, who can see immediately whether a device or service is going to work with their Vista equipped computer, and assures vendors that the requirements for “Certified for Windows Vista” are the same as they were for PlaysForSure. The problem, of course, is that plenty of things are “Certified for Windows Vista” that are not compatible with PlaysForSure services and devices. Like, say, the Zune. And then there are the untold millions of Windows users content with Windows XP who will now see “Certified for Windows Vista” logos and have no idea whether the devices and services work with their computers or media players.
Of course, some industry watchers are pointing out, while sadly shaking their heads, that all this confusion is brought on by one thing and one thing only: digital rights management.