Zune MP3s no longer require Microsoft Points

Microsoft has removed one cumbersome step from its Zune online music store by letting people pay for MP3s with a credit card.

Direct credit card payment may seem like an obvious feature for any online store, but not so with Microsoft. In the past, someone who wanted music from Zune would first have to purchase Microsoft Points, which could then be applied toward the cost of MP3s. These points could also be used to purchase games and videos through Xbox Live.

Now, PaidContent reports, Microsoft is removing that barrier and allowing direct payment by credit card. The move is tied to Microsoft’s launch of Bing Entertainment, a suite of new search engine features with an eye towards multimedia. If you search for a musician or song on Bing now, you’ll see a list of songs that can be streamed for free, not unlike Google’s music search feature that launched last October.

By deemphasizing the point system (it’s still available for people who want it), which seems geared more towards people who own Zune devices and are likely to purchase many thing with Microsoft Points, Microsoft could encourage more impulse MP3 buys and prevent people from using iTunes and Amazon instead. I agree with PaidContent that Microsoft is unlikely to make a dent in iTunes’ 69.1 percent MP3 market share, but it does make sense for people who use Bing to have an easy payment option when they use the search engine to find music.

My real hope is that Microsoft will move away from the Points system across all of its services, particularly Xbox Live. The most frustrating thing about buying downloadable Xbox Live Arcade games is that their prices rarely sync with the set amounts of points that Microsoft sells. That means you have to overpay for a game and save the extra points for later — not the classiest way of doing business.