Earlier in the year, back when Zune was hardly a blip on the radar, I wrote an article
that discussed the potential of Zune. It consisted of facts and rumours, but also some burning thoughts on my mind that I just had to get out in the open. With the Xbox 360 riding high, there were many things Microsoft could do with the Zune to make it a truly integrated experience. And based on all that was revealed yesterday, Microsoft is heading in the right direction.
Let's take a look at the Xbox 360. With internet connectivity, it connects directly to Xbox Live and the accompanying Xbox Live Marketplace, which is home to a plethora of free and paid content. Purchasing content is simple. You always have the option of using a credit card, or Microsoft's online currency system known as Microsoft Points
, which can be acquired online or over the counter. But hang on, why a second option? Why complicate matters? Credit cards work remarkably well, don't they? Well, sure, but what if you don't have a credit card? Of course, if you're in that boat, you're stuck. Whatever the reason - age, employment status, bad credit rating, or even plain old fear of using credit cards online - Microsoft Points offers an alternative method of payment. In addition, they can be used for micro-transactions, effectively bypassing the minimum transaction amounts that some banks impose on their customers. They can also reduce the number of credit transactions, and thus, the number of credit transaction fees. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, Points cards make great gifts too.
Now, when I wrote that article
back in July, I hinted that Microsoft Points would work great in the Zune's online store, which of course, we now know as the Zune Marketplace. And guess what? It's going to happen. If you have an Xbox Live membership, you can transfer Points from the Xbox Live Marketplace to the Zune Marketplace, and vice versa (using the same Windows Live ID). If you're buying Points fresh off the shelf, you can use it in both Marketplaces. Whether it's the Halo 3 picture pack or the award-winning album from John Legend, Microsoft Points serves as a single currency system allowing people from all walks of life to sample some Marketplace action. In the future, we may see a rewards-based system centred on Points, and even access to hardware purchases. It's all part of Microsoft's vision to centralising and integrating their digital entertainment products and services.