Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mobile Music - All You Can Eat from MusicStation

Thanks to Hypebot, I just learned about Omnifone's new MusicStation service that is launching (outside the US) in partnership with Musiwave (a division of Openwave) and 23 of their 35 different mobile carrier partners - giving them a total addressable market of 690 million users. The first commercial rollouts will be Scandinavian network operator Telenor and Vodafone partner network Vodacom in South Africa beginning in Q207. Other countries where they have partnerships include: Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and UK - most looking at Q3 rollouts or later.

If the service works as advertised, it seems pretty compelling. Basically, there is an incremental fee of 2 to 3 euros/week (8 - 12 euros/month) added to your mobile bill for the right to download and stream as much content from their 1.2 million track catalog as your heart desires (or your phone can handle). This includes the ability to stream one song while downloading another in the background. The weekly fees are inclusive of the data fees - where the higher subscription fees allow you to transfer the tracks that you downloaded to your phone back over to a PC. These tracks can *not* be burned to a CD, and it is unclear whether they can be synced to another mobile device.

The service works on "most" phones (symbian, java, 2.5g, 3g, etc), although Windows Mobile is conspicuosly missing from the list. The service has many "music 2.0" features including user playlist creation/sharing, charts, recommendations, member profiles, and the like. It also will send news, new release alerts and other related information on your favorite artists to your phone. Presumably, this is based on your listening history and doesn't require you to do anything special to receive this info besides just listening to your music.

As with all subscription services, sharing is easy.... if I'm a subscriber and you're a subscriber, we can "share" all we want. In that scenario we are sharing little more than a link to the asset on the service, but the consumer experience is seamless.

Other specs:

  • Tracks are encoded as eAAC+ (Enhanced Advanced Audio Coding)

  • Uses "industry standard" DRM is used (unclear as to which specifically, although it is not WMDRM)

  • The application comes pre-installed on specific handsets

  • Includes content from all major labels as well as many indies and aggregates

  • Automatically stores a user's favorite tracks on the phone's internal or removable memory (This means that users can access their favourite tracks when in Flight Safe mode and access the full catalogue when connected to a 2.5G or 3G data network)

  • It's play-on-demand capabilities (streaming) means their charts track most played tracks (instead of just most downloaded) - similar to most subscription services as compared to download stores like iTunes

  • Uses collaborative filtering and nearest-neighbor technology to identify new tracks, artists, albums and other users that are likely to be of interest

  • Message other consumers, sending recommended tracks, albums, playlists and messages

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