Sunday, November 12, 2006

"79 points actually cost 99 cents"

The title above links to a Wall Street Journal review of Microsoft's new Zune player and music store by Walt Mossberg. What struck me was that store customers must pre-pay, buying points which they then in turn use to purchase songs. And songs cost 79 points, which is equivalent to 99 cents. Exactly why did Microsoft choose an "exchange rate" (99/79) that produces a fraction that doesn't repeat until the 14th decimal place? OK, it's true that 79/99 repeats at the third decimal place. Will Microsoft round the number of points up to the nearest point when customers invariably pre-pay with a whole number of dollars? I assume that this is a mechanism for them to decouple song pricing from their payment system; maybe they think that people will view songs as being cheaper than they are because the number of points is less than the number of cents? I would suggest instead that they use an exchange rate similar to what used to exist between the dollar and the Italian Lira: seeing all those zeros (with, say, 7900 points for a song) will make it seem much more like paying with "play money".

Too bad that they need to get the customer to deposit real money to start.


  1. Could it be that they target the European Union? What's the current exchange rate with the Euro?

  2. Yes, it's in the right ballpark, US$1.28 is approximately one Euro, while 79/99 is approximately 1.25. Do you think that the value of points will fluctuate with the dollar/Euro exchange rate? Or that the Zune store will be available in Europe, considering it seems that it requires extensive negotiations to to arrange such things? Oh well, right now the Zune store doesn't appear on the Web, and it probably will only be accessible from a Windows app anyway, not a web browser, so I'll never know (unless I read something written by a Windows user who has experienced the store).