Nokia is to acquire digital music specialist Loudeye for $60m. This means Nokia will be able to offer consumers “a comprehensive mobile music experience, including devices, applications and the ability to purchase digital music” – an alternative to iTunes, in fact.
Nokia sold more than 15m music-enabled phones in Q2, making it the world’s largest manufacture of digital music players.
Loudeye, which aggregates rights and content from all the major labels and hundreds of independents and currently offers licensed catalogues and complete media for over 1.6m tracks operates 60 live services in over 20 countries and multiple languages across Europe and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Anssi Vanjoki, who labours under the title of Executive Vice President and General Manager of Multimedia at Nokia, said: “Music is a key experience for Nokia … People should be able to access all the music they want, anywhere, anytime and at a reasonable cost. With this acquisition, we aim to deliver that vision and a comprehensive music experience to Nokia device owners during 2007.”
Nokia has been offering a Loudeye-based white-label mobile music platform for operators for 18 months now. This will probably continue, in much the same way as Nokia offers own-brandable services such as Video Sharing or Nokia Content Discoverer.
But it’s certain that Nokia will also become more up-front in its music offering, perhaps with an iTunes-like centralised service. The operators may not be too happy with this; the Nokia brand might attract a lot of the music-based  revenue that they might otherwise see. Since Nokia won’t want to generate any antagonism, some interesting compromises would seem to be in the offing.
• The bad news for Nokia’s grand plan is the disappointing reception for the N91, the so-called ‘multimedia computer’ on which Nokia is pinning so much of its ‘Nokia=music’ branding.
Orange and T-Mobile have both confirmed the withdrawal of Nokia’s well-hyped, highly-specified N91 handset from their product portfolios – because it did not meet internal testing standards.
Orange said in a statement: “The decision was not taken lightly, but we want to ensure our customers have the best experience possible with their phones.”
The N91, which was delayed for some time before release, includes 4GB of memory and has been billed in some quarters as a serious rival to stand-alone digital music players like the Apple iPod. Nokia has backed the device and said that its popularity among consumers has caused shortages in the channel.
O2 and Vodafone are stocking the N91, and multiple retailers and dealers are free to connect the device to either Orange or T-Mobile SIM-free.
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