Almost 12 months after it was first muted, Microsoft has so far failed to deliver an Australian music site in partnership with Sanity.
Despite several false starts insiders claim that the site is now close to final delivery, however Microsoft has responded evasively regarding questions about the issue.
When asked why the site had not been delivered by the April 2007 deadline as promised by Microsoft Managing Director, Tracy Fellows, at the January 2007 launch of Vista, Microsoft PR executives said that they were unable to comment.
In July 2007 several partners to the program were told that the site would be up and running by July 2007 however this failed to eventuate due to software delays.
Sanity Managing Director Greg Milne, who demonstrated the site to journalists at the Vista launch, has also refused to say why the site has not been launched.
SmartHouse has been told that the site, which is being developed in partnership with a UK company that specialises in DRM issues, has passed the beta testing stage and is now undergoing final testing.
Microsoft Public Relations Manager, Kathy Jameson, said “The project is across several divisions at Microsoft. It involves our consumer division and software development team and at this stage I cannot say where the project is at”.
This delay comes despite the 2006 launch of a similar, Microsoft-owned and subscription-based music download website called Urge in the US.
Unlike iTunes, which is fully-owned and operated by Apple, both Microsoft’s Urge and the proposed Sanity services are run by a third-party, in Urge’s case the US-owned music television channel MTV. Microsoft provides the platform for Urge in the US while MTV provides the content; theoretically Sanity will provide content licensing for the Australian music website while Microsoft will again supply the platform.
Milne announced at the Vista launch in January that users will be able to browse the new website’s catalogue and purchase songs for $1.99 each, or sign up for a flat all-you-can-download monthly subscription which will cost about as much as “a couple of CDs” – equating to approximately $50 per month or $600 per year.
This offers consumers an alternative to the pay-per-song/pay-per-album model that is the offered by iTunes.
Up against the iPod, Microsoft has also struggled to deliver a market for partners selling MP3 devices. Even Microsoft’s own music player, the Zune, which is sold in the US only has been a flop compared to Apple’s popular offering.
However, Microsoft’s promise to shift a million Zune personal media players by the end of June wasn’t an idle one – the company’s latest set of financials included an announcement that the device had actually sold 1.2 million units during the past 12 months.
Even so, while the number sounds impressive one has to bear in mind that this is what Apple’s iPod sells in a week.
With new Zune models slated to be announced later this year it is tipped that a Zune player will be launched in Australia early in the New Year based on the new models.