Siemens, 02 team on mobile music downloading service

Via their mobile phones, music lovers can now legally download tunes to a new music player device equipped with DRM (Digital Rights Management) controls and advanced compression technology.

Mobile operator O2 (UK) Ltd. launched on Monday Europe's first mobile "over the air" music downloading service featuring the DRM Music Player developed by Siemens AG.

The DRM Music Player allows users not only to copy tracks without infringing copyrights but also to download compressed music files using MPEG-4 aacPlus technology, according to Siemens. The aacPlus compression system, developed by Coding Technologies GmbH in Nuremberg, Germany, is one of the most powerful audio compression technologies available today, delivering high audio quality even for the narrowband transmission channels currently used in mobile communications, the Munich manufacturer said.

The U.K. operator's new 02 Music downloading service offers a range of current music, updated weekly, at prices averaging around £1.50 (US$2.60 ) per track, in addition to the cost of transmission, according to the company's Web site. Customers can browse by genre, artist or track or select from many of the top song charts, including the U.K. top 10 and MTV Dance top 10. They can choose between hearing a 30-second preview clip and purchasing the entire track. Although the clip is free, listeners must pay for the streaming transmission. An entire track takes around 3.5 minutes to download.

The service offers unique features, giving customers the opportunity to hear certain tracks before they have been released to more traditional channels, such as record stores, 02 said. They can also select from an extensive back catalog of tracks, expected to increase, along with new charts and releases, to more than 100,000 during the course of next year.

The music player, developed by Siemens' Swiss subsidiary, is similar in size to a PDA (personal digital assistant), measuring 52 x 98 x 21 mm (millimeters) and weighing 80 grams.

U.K.'s 02 is selling the device for around £100.

To use it, users need a mobile phone that supports GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology and later 3G (third-generation), said Siemens spokesman Benno Estermann. They connect the player to their mobile phone via either an infrared connection or USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable. The connection is established by pressing a button. Users can also download music files on their PCs to the player using the same connection systems.

Music files are stored on a plug-in 64M-byte SD memory card, which can hold up to 60 songs. The card can be used in both the DRM Music Player and a PC.

The DRM technology was developed by SDC AG, which is also a member of the Music Over the Air Consortium (MOC) established to offer mobile operators a packaged music download service. Other members include Siemens and media specialist Yodoba/234 AG.

The consortium offers mobile operators, such as 02, a range of services, including deals with music companies, copy protection, file hosting and file compression, in addition to the "while label device" music player, according to Estermann. "Operators can brand the product as they please," he said. "And this is exactly what 02 has done."

MOC is in talks with numerous other operators in Europe, as well as Asia and the Americas, according to the spokesman.

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John Blau

IDG News Service
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