Microsoft is getting some backlash from their recent decision to drop the MSN Music service. This is an online service that uses DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology to sell music. DRM prevents customers from buying one copy of a song and then making copies for friends. Joe Wilcox provides a good overview of what is happening here.
Online providers shutting down a DRM-protected media service isn't new. This happened last year when Google dropped their video store. At the time Google offered credits to customers losing access to their purchased videos. Microsoft is telling customers they can still listen to their purchased songs on any computer registered before the end of August. After that, if a computer breaks or is replaced you are out of luck. Needless to say, nobody likes either option.
What happens is the DRM-protected media player needs to check-in with a server from time to time to see if the song can be played. If that server doesn't respond the only thing you hear is the sound of silence (Hello darkness my old friend...). This is why content companies like DRM. They can control who accesses their content. Rhapsody, for example, will only authorize the use of songs for a week or two for customers of their subscription music service. Stop paying the monthly fee and the songs stop playing (I have to admit, I like the Rhapsody service).
I bet many customers were surprised this could even happen. But with DRM-protected music you only buy the right to listen to the music. By the way, this limited right is not new. Look at the fine print on one of your music CDs. You don't own anything other than perhaps the material it took to make the CD and packaging.
This is fine until the company running the server authorizing players decides to get out of the business. But, remember we are talking about Microsoft and Google here. These are not fly-by-night companies that might have run out of money or were gobbled up by competitors or whatever might happen to say a startup. Aren't we supposed to be able to trust these large companies? They're...you know...large, after all.
To me this shows how important trust is when it comes to network-delivered services, be it a music service or cloud computing. Whether it is an Amazon Web Service, Google App Engine, Microsoft Office Live, or whatever online service you might want to use, trust will play a huge role in determining whether or not you give them your information (songs, documents, data, applications, etc.). Trust will especially play a critical role when trying to persuade new customers to use a cloud service.
Question is, who do you trust?