Music, wireless industries converge to provide cell-phone music downloads

| Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Not that four-wheelers need another reason to stop paying attention to the road, but two partnerships in the technology world will soon bring more entertainment and information choices to mobile phones.

Music-download company Napster announced Wednesday, June 15, its partnership with LM Ericsson, the Swedish half of mobile phone provider Sony Ericsson, to bring its Napster download service to the wireless world.

Although the technical and financial specifics of the plan have not been announced, the service would allow cell phone users to download entire songs and albums onto their MP3-equipped phones and other wireless handheld devices.

According to The Associated Press, the service would initially be offered in select markets in Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America, and should start appearing in wireless service providers’ plans within the next 12 months.

“Ericsson and Napster are uniquely suited to offer mobile operators a simple, cohesive and personalized digital music experience for their consumers,” Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said in a press release.

Napster made its first mark on the music world in the late ’90s, when founder Shawn Fanning released a software program that could download music – both legal and illegal – quickly and easily over the Internet.

The software was shut down in July 2001, after accusations of copyright infractions by the Recording Industry Association of America, but not before sparking the peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading revolution that has caused the recording industry to rethink its business model.

Napster later reemerged as a legal pay download service, charging $9.95 per month to download an unlimited number of songs. Napster’s new incarnation has been moderately successful, but trails a distant second in sales to Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store, thanks to the success of the iPod, which is incompatible with the Napster service.

Apple also made a move into the mobile market this week, announcing its partnership with mobile manufacturing giant Nokia. The pair plans to bring a new high-tech Web browser to its Series 60 cell phones. The browser will use open-source technology – code distributed free in the programming community – from Apple’s own Safari Web browser.