Nokia puts music on hold for 3,000 song MP3 phone

Nokia has delayed the launch of its N91 music phone.

Nokia is delaying the introduction of the N91, its cellphone that can store as many as 3,000 songs, missing the end-of-year shopping season.

“We’ve decided to move the introduction to the first quarter as we have been able to accelerate the deployment of Windows [digital rights management] into the device,” says Kari Tuutti, a spokesman for Nokia. Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) is a platform that allows music vendors to control how PC, music player or cell phone users listen to music or use other protected digital content they download.

Nokia had originally planned to launch the N91 for the Christmas season with DRM software from the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), upgrading to the Windows DRM next year. However, the company instead accelerated the inclusion of Windows DRM into the device but won’t be able to complete that process until the first quarter, Tuutti says.

The Windows DRM software is important to Nokia because it allows users to download music from more stores than the OMA software allows, he says. Over 50% of online music stores are compatible with the Windows DRM, he says.

Nokia loses the chance to use the N91 to compete during the Christmas season against other handset makers that are featuring music players in their new products. Most notably, Motorola recently introduced a cellphone that includes a player for music purchased from the popular iTunes Music Store.

Nokia thinks it’s worth the wait to make the N91 better.

“The Christmas season is important but if you look at what is the status of the music entering mobile phones, it’s still very early days,” Tuutti says. “We wanted to make sure the first experience is positive so we don’t bring a disappointment to first buyers. In that sense, the long term trend is more important than a month or two of sales.”

Pushing back the timeline in a quest to deliver a better product isn’t a bad decision, says Rob Bamforth, a principal analyst with Quocirca.

“Getting the DRM stuff right is vital for usability,” he says. “So delaying it to get it right is a good thing.”

Nokia already has several other phones that include the capability to play music in the market and “in fact has sold 40 million such phones this year,” says Tuutti.

“But the N91 is the first where we really fine-tuned this end-to-end experience and have optimised the device with a huge mass storage capability,” he says.

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