US mobile phone network AT&T Wireless today hopped onto the digital music bandwagon, launching an online music store accessed from customers' handsets, the first of its kind in the US.
What's really interesting about mMode Music Store, however, is that it's not intended as a mobile service, at least not yet. The service's 750,000-odd songs - available as 99c tracks or $10 and up albums - are intended to be downloaded to a PC, not a phone.
AT&T Wireless will tout the store as a way of making impulse purchases. Users hear a song while they're out and about, decide they like it and can then use mMode to buy it straight away, either as a Windows Media Audio download or as a ringtone for their handset.
If punters don't recognise a pleasing tune, they can use AT&T Wireless' Shazam-style music recognition service to find out what the track is called before visiting mMode and buying it.
"Now, consumers no longer have to scribble down the names of songs they've discovered and wait until they get home to download them onto their computers," said Sam Hall, AT&T Wireless' mMode VP, in a statement. "The convenience and immediacy of our mobile digital music store lets users remotely explore and buy digital music while on the move."
It's a canny ploy on AT&T Wireless' part, since it not only provides revenue from ringtones - not to mention the GPRS packets used to access the Music Store and order tracks from it - but doesn't risk annoying users with lengthy song downloads to phones that lack the capacity to store more than a few of them at a time.
Of course, the company has its eye on a future where considerably more capacious, possibly even hard drive-equipped handsets and fast 3G connections will enable straight-to-mobile downloads. In that sense, it's a victory for Microsoft over MPEG 4/AAC, currently being touted as the key format for mobile music.
The cost of songs purchased through mMode are added to the customer's regular monthly invoice. Downloaded tracks can be burned to CD or transferred to a WMA 9 DRM-compatible device.
mMode Music Store is delivered by digital music distributor Loudeye which in June acquired the Peter Gabriel-backed On-Demand Distribution (OD2). ®
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