August 18, 2008, 9:24 PM — Back in 2004, Tim Bucher was just another bit of Apple executive roadkill, promoted to head of Macintosh engineering before being unceremoniously fired by Steve Jobs, who remarked that "some people think you're manic-depressive." There was the typical ugly post-firing lawsuit, but by mid-2006 he had emerged at the head of Zing, a company that promised a looser model for media transfer than the iTunes store. Zing users would be able to "zing" (saints preserve us from wacky nomenclature) media back and forth from computers to phones to digital devices.
Zing got snapped up by Dell, and now Bucher and his corporate parent seem to be preparing an assault on the juggernaut that is the iTunes Store. BusinessWeek reports breathlessly about the new Zing-based service Dell is cooking up: "Imagine if you could download a song from Amazon.com and send it to the mobile phone of a friend or the car stereo of someone who has satellite radio." Even reliable anti-Apple hack Rob Enderle gets a choice quote.
What is significantly underreported in the story is DRM, which is always the achilles heel of any of these whiz-bang trans-device media sharing plays. It's worth noting that Zing's previous big foray into the public eye was as the technology underlying the Sansa Connect, which was tied to the Yahoo! Music store, which in turn has just shut down, sowing confusion and anger over what users can do with orphaned DRM'd tracks. Users may wonder what will happen to their Dell-purchased songs if this effort goes the way of Dell's ill-fated iPod killers. Of course, as the BW article points out, the record labels that insist on DRM are also the ones who are backing the Dell effort against the Frankenstein's Monster iTunes Store that's beginning to freak them out. It's their vengeance that's probably going to be a lot more relevant to the story than Bucher's.