"Microsoft sees the youthful audience for the Zune wireless-sharing MP3 player (which allows music sharing for three days or three plays, then gives users a chance to buy it) and associated downloading service as more than just a target market, said industry analysts: It also sees it as an ally in its quest to topple the king-of-the-hill Apple iPod/iTunes. Mike McGuire, VP of research for mobile devices and consumer services at Gartner Inc., San Jose, Calif., said he sees Microsoft's social-networking strategy as being based on recommendations that lead to sales. "The social nature of music as a form of currency is well established," he said. "But from the larger industry perspective, where it gets interesting and powerful is when music sharing can lead to actual purchase.""
With a limited distribution base and restricted playback rights, Zune's sharing capabilities via Wi-Fi may not be all that appealing, but Gartner thinks that Microsoft is on the right track. The end goal is to have music discovery lead to sales, and sales lead to more money in the pockets of Microsoft and the labels. Of course, it won't take off until users receive some sort of incentive for sharing
. Until then, only one party benefits.