In December 2005 when MTV and Microsoft announced the URGE music service with great fanfare, it was slated to be a major feature of Windows Media Player 11. Before it got launched however, Microsoft introduced the Zune and the Zune Marketplace and somehow the MTV marketing blitz never materialized. Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that MTV is switching horses and merging URGE into a joint venture with RealNetworks (who has its own incompatible Rhapsody service) and with Verizon Wireless handling the mobile distribution.
It’s not entirely clear how that is going to work for current URGE subscribers on the WMP 11 base, but then the problem seems to be that there weren’t too many URGE subscribers in the first place. It may be reaching too far to chalk up the demise of URGE as yet another existing Microsoft relationship overrun by the ambitions of the boys in the Entertainment and Devices Division, but as I have observed previously, it surely wasn’t good news to have two different and incompatible music store offerings coming from Microsoft. Well, that’s one problem that neither Microsoft nor MTV will have anymore.
Update: The formal announcement says the new service will be called Rhapsody America and that “Starting today, URGE customers can use their existing usernames and passwords to log in to Rhapsody and enjoy access to both services.” That still doesn’t spell out what current URGE customers will be able to do with their downloads and the future of the URGE service, because that picture is still fuzzy:
When asked about the future of Urge, Toffler was terse. “We are in discussions with Microsoft now and will be on Windows Media Player 11 until further notice,” he said. While the Urge brand will ultimately disappear, Toffler said that “a lot” of Urge’s elements will live on in Rhapsody America.