Other interesting bits from the evening include the news that both O2 and Vodafone will be carrying the Nokia N81 handset. TechDigest found an additional piece of information and is reporting that the Vodafone version will ship with both Nokia Music Shop and the subscription based Omniphone Music Station. Of course, how heavily Vodafone will promote the N81 remains open to debate. The N81 had previously drawn attention after several UK carriers (Orange and T-Mobile) were reported to have refused to carry the handset with Nokia services preloaded.
All of this is rather short sighted on the part of the carriers. It only takes one carrier thinking it can gain first mover advantage (O2 in this case) by promoting the new handsets and services for any stone walling on the part of the carriers as a whole to be ineffective. Moreover the N95 8GB, which will be heavily promoted because of the track record of the N95 classic, will support the same services, making the whole N81 saga even more ridiculous.
Here's a quick round up of what we know (though there is scope for change) about the Nokia Music Shop:
- There are two versions of the store, one for mobile devices and one for PCs. The Music Shop is initially web based for both mobile and PC versions (initially Internet Explorer only on the latter).
A dedicated Windows application, similar to iTunes, will become available in due course (it was demonstrated at Go Play, but will not be available at launch). The mobile version of the store offers full functionality, including payment and download over any connection bearer (realistically 3G or WiFi). If you download a song via the mobile store then it will be synchronised back to the PC when you next connect up the mobile.
- The four big music labels have been signed up (EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner), along with a variety of independent labels. Nokia is also placing an emphasis on delivering local music, so we can expect to see some regional variation in what is available and/or promoted. The range of music does seem to be very broad, with success even on some of the more obscure searches. All told there will be several million tracks available.
- Music is protected via Windows Media DRM. Tracks will be encoded in WMA format at 196 kbps. At some point in the future, the DRM will switch to Microsoft PlayReady which allows for greater flexibility, supports more media types (e.g. videos, ringtones) and supports additional formats (e.g. AAC+). Nokia is aware of the move to DRM-free music, but is somewhat constrained by its partners.
- 30 second previews are available in both the PC and Mobile versions of the store.
- Payment methods include credit card, PayPal and Premium SMS (in select countries). Users will have the option to put a certain amount of credit into their account (similar to PAYG top ups) or can pay on download. There is also support for vouchers and we suspect some devices will come with vouchers in the box to encourage initial usage.
- You can save songs (tagging) in the mobile store for later purchase and download in the PC store.
- The PC version has support for unlimited streaming music subscriptions at a cost of around £8 per month. Streaming subscriptions will not be available for mobile, although it is a likely that this feature will be added in the future. The twist on this compared to similar services is that various playlists will be made available with 'one click to stream' functionality. The playlists will be a combination of human edited lists (e.g. from famous artists or celebrities) and automatically generated lists based on user preferences.
- The store is, apparently, UK only for the moment, other countries will follow shortly.
You can see a quick demo on some aspects of the Music Shop in this video preview of the Nokia N81:
Update: There's now an official press release too.
Rafe Blandford, All About Symbian