Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nokia Comes With Music

A couple of days ago Nokia made a press release about launching the Comes With Music digital entertainment service that was announced a year ago. The bottom line of the deal is that Nokia will bring out mobile devices that can be used to listen to full music catalogs of some record companies like Universal Music Group and Sony BMG. You are entitled to download as many songs as you wish for free and after the one year contract you are still eligible to keep your downloaded material.

The concept sounds very interesting. The CD sales are continuously diminishing and at the same time sales of digital music have been doubling every year. The unpleasant truth is however that a lot of young people are used to download their music for free from P2P networks anyway. The new model offers music seemingly for free but is paid in the price of the device. It appears that Nokia and the record companies have realized that this could be the only way to attract people to actually have legally acquired music.

Like everything "free", this comes with a catch too. The service will be handicapped by DRM. You will be able to listen to your music with your Nokia device and your computer only. The content won't work in an iPod or any other device. Then again, if you actually bought a Nokia music device, why would you want to use an iPod? Also burning a CD or any tracks will require an upgrade purchase for each track. These limitations are something you probably can live with but maybe the biggest surprise comes when you want to renew your subscription. In order to regain access to music for another year you need to buy a new Nokia device.

Nokia is entering a new market a bit like Apple did a few years ago with the iPod and iTunes. Just like Apple, Nokia is having sceptical observers and a lot of critisism. However, everyone knows the success story behind iPod. It remains to be seen how well Nokia manages to market this new model.

The first setback at the launch of the service in the UK is that four big mobile operators, namely Vodafone, O2 , Orange and T-Mobile, are not planning to sell it. Nokia is likely to have to rely on the mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse and its own shops and website. Its still unclear how this will affect the sales as a lot of phones are being sold with operator deals in the UK. The first two phones featuring the service will be XpressMusic 5310 and N95. The first Nokia touch screen smarpthone, XpressMusic 5800, is not on the launch list since it will not go on sale until next year.

It could be useful to combine a Comes With Music enabled smartphone with Nokia Home Media. Essentially you could carry your music collection anywhere with your mobile phone and in addition be able to listen to it with your home stereo. You could just make your smartphone a media server and stream the content to your UPnP/DLNA enabled media center device like Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Its a bit unclear if it would be possible to stream DRM protected content but I could imagine this as an attractive option if it would work.

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