As part of the prep for the Zune launch on Nov 14 that I mentioned yesterday, Microsoft has put the going out of business sign up on MSN Music. Here’s the story from Ina Fried at CNET:
Two years after opening its MSN Music store to compete with Apple Computer’s iTunes, Microsoft plans to stop selling downloads from the site, CNET News.com has learned.
Beginning, Nov. 14, MSN’s music site will begin redirecting music purchasers to either the Zune Marketplace Web site or to RealNetworks’ Rhapsody site.
“After November 14, the ‘Buy’ buttons that you’re used to seeing on MSN Music album and artist pages will change to links that connect you to Zune and to Real Rhapsody,” MSN Entertainment general manager Rob Bennett said in an e-mail to MSN Music customers.
When it opened its online doors in September 2004, MSN Music had high hopes of competing with Apple, touting the fact that songs bought from the site could be played on a variety of Windows Media-compatible devices.
However, MSN Music, as well as other stores that sell tracks in the Windows Media Audio format, have been unable to compete with iTunes, which has maintained its dominance.
The Rhapsody part is due to the legal settlement with RealNetworks, but the Zune Marketplace referral is a bit of a puzzle since the Zune format is incompatible with the PlaysForSure format which is available on MSN Music. The consensus reading of the MSN Music FAQ about the change seems to be that PlaysForSure customers are just plain out of luck unless they go to Rhapsody or one of the other PlaysForSure Music stores. The PlaysForSure hardware vendors that Microsoft recruited for the last round and now have stranded are going to love this.
Update: The above got updated several times based on varying parsings of the MSN Music FAQ.