Mobile World Congress Roundup

By Azita Arvani

Last week, we attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the largest global wireless show.  Here are the DRM and copyright related highlights of the show.

There was almost no mention of DRM, some mention of content protection, but lots of mobile music and video services around.

Nokia is extending the Comes With Music service to Australia and Singapore while also adding new phone models. Comes with Music phones include a 12-month or 18-month unlimited music subscription, depending on the mobile operator. And at the end of the year, the subscribers get to keep their downloaded music on their phones. Last October, the company launched the Comes With Music service in the UK with three phone models: 5310 XpressMusic, N95 8GB, and N96. Comes With Music wraps the songs in Windows Media DRM 10, so they cannot be moved onto other devices. At the show, Nokia told us that they were happy with the results in the UK, without giving any specifics. The 5310 was the favorite phone model. Since the users have not had a year with the phone to experience the end of the subscription, we can’t tell how the users will eventually react to the totality of this service. The company confirmed that it will continue using Windows Media DRM for the upcoming launches.

Sony Ericsson has launched a similar service, called PlayNow Plus, which has a more complex pricing structure. In this service, a Sony Ericsson phone comes with an unlimited music subscription for a certain period (6 months or a year). At the end of that period, the user gets to keep 100 or 300 downloaded songs. The users can then continue the music service at $14.99 per month. The service is based on Omnifone’s MusicStation infrastructure, which uses OMA DRM 1.0. The initial launch was with Telenor of Sweden in Q4 2008 on the Sony Ericsson Walkman phone W902.

At the show, Sony Ericsson announced a new W995 Walkman phone, which comes bundled with newly developed Media Go software. Media Go enables users to transfer music, video, and other media between their computers and cell phones. The software will also allow users to download movies to their PC’s and then transfer it to their W995 Walkman phone for playback. We were told the DRM for the movies will be OMA DRM 2.0 compliant, but we’d like to do more digging to make sure. The W995 Walkman phone is also DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certified, which enables it to connect with other DLNA devices, like PlayStation 3, PSP, and many PC’s and set-top boxes for an interoperable home entertainment environment. A concept high-end camera phone demonstrated by Sony Ericsson at the show, named Idou, houses a 12 Mega Pixel camera and will also support DLNA connectivity when it ships in the second half of 2009.

Overall, the mobile music download services are still holding on to DRM with the exception of Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow in the Nordic regions. But we expect that will soon change to DRM-free music services.

The other relevant announcement at Mobile World Congress this year was Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book SDK for mobile devices, which Bill covered last week.

However, premium mobile videos and movies will be protected by DRM for the foreseeable future. Premium digital publications, such as eBooks, are another area where DRM still rules.

Azita Arvani is Principal of Arvani Group.

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