Will Apple pay you to share your headphones?

According to rumours that are making the rounds of the gadget-blogosphere, Microsoft is planning to add a social-commerce aspect to its new Zune player. In addition to being able to share songs with other Zune users wirelessly, owners could be compensated with points if another user eventually buys one of the songs that was shared. Those points could then be redeemed for products, services, etc. It’s an interesting idea, if true (this research paper suggests that it is).

For me, one of the biggest missed opportunities with the iPod is this kind of sharing and community aspect. When mp3 players first appeared on the scene, sharing music wirelessly was one of the things I hoped they would eventually be able to do, and I remember early rumours that the iPod would allow that. For whatever reason, it has never come to be.

And maybe Microsoft’s Zune will suck, and the sharing will be clunky and stupid and it will also suck. But I think it’s worth trying, and it kind of bugs me that Steve Jobs has spent a lot of time dumping on the idea just because Microsoft is doing it instead of Apple. Take the Newsweek interview in which he said (the tone of derision is implied):

By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

Well, that’s great Steve. But is Apple going to pay me for every time I stick my headphone in someone’s ear? They’d have to pay me more just to compensate for the whole ear-wax-sharing thing, but that’s a separate issue. In any case, I hope Microsoft does do this, because I think it could turn out to be something interesting — even if it doesn’t come from Apple.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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