As the mobile phone and digital music distribution industries lace up their boxing gloves, manufacturers like Nokia and carriers like Verizon are unveiling new music plans tied to mobile phones. While Nokia is the latest with its soon-to-be-released Comes With Music service, troubled handset maker Sony Ericsson is drafting its own plans to join the fray with an unlimited music download service.
Renewed competition in the mobile phone industry, coupled with economic instability around the world, has been hitting some handset makers hard. Motorola is one of the most publicly visible handset makers to take a hit, but Sony Ericsson reported its own hard luck this past summer with a continuing trend of declining sales, net income, and even the average selling price of its phones.
The fact that Sony Ericsson is getting hit from all angles, especially in markets like the US where it doesn't have a strong presence, can't be helping. Apple has a hit with its iPhone, Google has gained quite a lot of steam with its open-source mobile OS Android, BlackBerry is stepping up its product line, and even Windows Mobile saw a modest worldwide market share gain from 11 to 13 percent over the last fiscal year. With mobile music services and subscriptions—such as Nokia's (mostly) unlimited Comes With Music that is set to debut in October—being hailed as one of the new frontiers of the mobile phone industry, Sony Ericsson probably feels it doesn't have much of a choice but to compete in that space.
Despite once denouncing unlimited music subscription services as "devaluing" the music trade, Financial Times (subscription required) reports that Sony Ericsson is in talks with major and independent record labels to offer its own unlimited music downloading service on select mobile phones. "If everybody is launching 'all you can eat' services which make handsets more attractive to end users and to operators, they don't have much choice," Dan Cryan, an analyst at Screen Digest, told FT. "Especially when so much of their brand value is built around the Walkman."
Indeed, it has always seemed strange for Sony to bring the Walkman brand to its Sony Ericsson mobile phone partnership, but not leverage it for better integration and some sort of a music service. Details are slim for now as far as how Sony's plan will work, what phones will be compatible, or how much it will cost, and Sony Ericsson didn't return our request for comment on this story.
The company already offers a PlayNow arena service in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden that sells ringtones, games, and DRM-free MP3s for $0.99 and €0.99, but like most other subscription services (including Comes With Music), the songs will probably have some kind of DRM on them.Posted on