Motorola said on Monday it had signed a deal to use Windows Media technology from Microsoft in a new range of music phones that would sell alongside its iTunes phone developed with Apple.
Motorola Inc., the world’s second biggest mobile phone maker behind Nokia (NOK1V.HE), will launch between one and three Windows Media phones in the second half of 2006, said Chris White, the company’s senior director of global product marketing for music handsets.
Motorola, which launched its first iTunes phones last year, will keep Windows Media phones as separate products, he said.
Motorola said the new Windows Media phones have been requested by many operators which want to open their own music stores. Microsoft is willing to sell technology that enables this to operators, while Apple has its iTunes music store to protect.
Amir Majidimehr, in charge of Microsoft’s digital media activities, said the advantage for consumers was that they could now buy online songs either from a PC or a mobile phone and transfer between devices without having to buy tracks twice.
Microsoft now has deals with both Nokia and Motorola. These two handset makers together produced more than half of the 810 million mobile phones that were sold last year.
As described in the article, the Motorola iTunes phones were duds for a variety of reasons including the inability of network operators to sell songs themselves. And that’s important because:
Support of mobile telecoms operators for a handset is crucial, because they choose a limited number of phones they will subsidize and offer to their subscribers — in most markets around the world only 10 to 20 percent of phones are sold in retail stores without operator subsidies.
Next we get to see if consumers will also like the idea.
Update: The Microsoft press release has arrived:
Today at 3GSM World Congress 2006, Motorola Inc. and Microsoft Corp. strengthened their existing relationship by announcing a collaboration to integrate Microsoft ® Windows Media ® technologies on a number of Motorola’s music handsets, which will allow users to access content from the broadest selection of online music stores from around the world.
Motorola’s music handsets will add support for Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM), Windows Media Audio (WMA), the enhanced Windows Media Audio Professional (WMA Pro) codec and Media Transfer Protocol (MTP). These technologies will give consumers the maximum flexibility and options when purchasing and playing back their digital music.
Forthcoming Motorola music handsets will enable seamless connectivity to Windows ® -based PCs via the USB 2.0 high-speed protocol. By supporting MTP, Windows Media Player will automatically recognize Motorola handsets and enable users to quickly and easily sync their music from their PC to their phone. Music acquired from any pay-per-download or subscription store using Windows Media technology will transfer and play back on Motorola handsets.
In addition to making Motorola handsets interoperable with PCs, Motorola and Microsoft plan to provide mobile handset offerings that are tailored for discovering and acquiring music over an operator’s 3G network.