CyberTech Rambler

January 10, 2006

Verizon Windows Media Player Fiasco : Bad customer practice and may be, just may be, MS performing a forbidden dealing through the back door ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:53 am

Remember that the judge overseeing Microsoft’s antitrust settlement in the US chiding Microsoft for drawing up (and later drop) a proposed contract that says that only Microsoft’s Media Player is allowed on portable audio player? Just when we thought the dust had settled, Verizon’s introduce a music service that supports only Microsoft Media Player.

Let’s get the most important fact first: It is reported that supporting only Microsoft Media Player IS Verizon’s own decision, and they have every rights to do so. However, I think it is worth investigating whether Microsoft applied pressure or illegal sweeten the deal
to drive Verizon to this decision. After all, we cannot allow a monopolist to go anywhere near the very action it is not suppose to do under the antitrust settlement. More worryingly, it is reported (but not verified) that Microsoft an agreement with Verizon for Windows Media Player to be the solo media player. If true, this is worrying.

Verizon’s action is deplorable in several ways. First, if you upgrade your phone, Verizon originally does not bother to tell you that the MP3 playback function is disabled. The lure of upgrading, as far as the customer is concerned, is about richer feature and enhancement, not the degradation of the phone as it is here. If one is to remove something as important as MP3 playback, it should be advertised. Second, it surrepticiously convert all your MP3s to WMAs format if you upload to the phone. This is bad because customers do expects MP3s to stay as MP3s or WMAs to stays as WMAs. There is nothing wrong with doing this conversion, just make it clear that the conversion take place. All in all, bad customer relation practice. There are also claims of misleading advertising (Verizon advertise that the phones involved have built-in MP3 players)

Verizon defends the action as to “enhance” user experience. I cannot see how removing MP3 playback is an “enhancement” of user experience. It looks to me as if Verizon is trying to “lock-in” their customers by putting technical hurdles when its customers attempts to play music bought from another source.

Lets see how this issue evolve. I do not think we are seeing the end of it.

Given the Sony XCP fiasco and this event, I believe we are living in interesting time. Market forces are at play shaping the future of DRM-enabled content.

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