BMW is to offer access to Brit streaming music service Rara in its new Series 5 motors. Is this the beginning of the end for broadcast radio?
What's unusual and interesting about the deal is that it includes 3G access to the music - via Vodafone's mobile network - across Europe. So, wherever you can get a signal, you can get Rara's music catalogue and playlists, without any extra charges - particularly roaming charges - or extra cables or devices. Series 5 Beemer owners will have to pay a flat yearly subscription fee.
The BMWs will have an embedded SIM in the head unit.
So, as with Amazon's Kindle and TCOKARIM*'s BlackBerry, BMW is bundling the means to access content into a device, the "device" in this case being a car.
The on-demand music service in the BMW head unit
BMW offers the in-car streaming to the UK, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Germans can sign up for €390 for the first year with a €220 renewal. The service includes offline and mobile access.
To put that in context, it's considerably more than the market price of a tenner-a-month for a streaming service with offline access. But if you regularly drive across Europe it's definitely worth looking at. There's no faffing around with cables, transmitters or CDs, and it's a small fraction of the price of the car.
The deal is also quite forward-looking. Digital radio has fragmented into several incompatible standards across Europe: DAB, DAB+, DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and DRM and DRM+ (Digital Radio Mondiale). These are all designed as one-to-many digital transmission systems. Yet the cellular LTE specification is quite capable of supporting multicast (one-to-many) transmissions, too. This should ease the network traffic burden on operators - and answer one of the main criticisms of music-over-cellular services.
Rara's BMW bundle could be the first of many to come.
Radio broadcasters, take note. If you're not on the dial, somebody else will be. ®
* The Company Once Known As RIM