M-USE music to Ericsson's ears

Ericsson hopes to have cracked the thorny issue of digital rights management (DRM) with its new music-to-the-cellphone service M-USE.

Ericsson hopes to have cracked the thorny issue of digital rights management (DRM) with its new music-to-the-cellphone service M-USE.

The M-USE service allows customers to download images and video footage of their favourite musicians as well as 30-second slices of their songs. Initially the music will be delivered in streaming format but by the end of the year it will be available for download to the phone, according to head of music Svante Holm.

"It's a personalised service that we will be hosting, so network operators can make use of it for their customers."

Because Ericsson has an existing relationship with Sony it has access to Sony Music's back catalogue. Initially the service will offer 1000 songs but within a year will have as many as 10,000 on offer.

"Obviously with so many songs we can't just force users to scroll through a list so we've developed the M-USE service to help users narrow down their selection."

Users will be able to enter in their categories of choice and the service will also learn from their selections. Songs will be suggested in a manner similar to Amazon.com's approach to suggesting titles chosen by other readers.

"You'll get a message saying other users also liked these artists or something similar." Holm says the product is being offered to network operators as a "white label" approach, meaning they can customise it and brand it as they wish.

Ericsson is hoping the music industry will provide the ideal content for cellular users and the numbers seem to back up the theory.

"Polyphonic ring tones generate more sales than CD singles in Europe. Nobody expected it to be such a huge success but there it is."

M-USE customers will be able to replace their polyphonic ring tones with real music clips and Ericsson hopes "ring-back tones" will also prove popular. Ring-back tones allow the caller to hear music playing instead of the ringing tone when they ring someone with an M-USE enabled phone.

Holm acknowledges that Apple's iPod has stolen the march from the company but argues the two offerings will reach different markets.

"There are times when you only want one device and so you'll use your cellphone and there are times when you'll want to carry your entire music library with you."

Ericsson hopes to announce a second major record label has signed on to offer music over the service in the next few weeks.

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