The world's largest cell-phone maker and software provider are combining forces to make it possible for handset users to swap mobile content between phones and other devices, such as PCs and media players.
Beginning next year, Microsoft's digital rights management (DRM) software for mobile devices, called PlayReady, will be loaded directly onto Nokia's S60 and S40 mobile phones to ensure that copyrighted multimedia content is protected from unauthorized duplication.
By adding support for PlayReady, Nokia is "enabling service providers to offer a wide range of content and create truly compelling experiences across mobile devices, personal computers, and online services," said Nokia senior vice president Ilkka Raiskinen in a statement. "We plan to support PlayReady across a range of S60 and Series 40 devices starting in 2008."
An Inflection Point
IDC recently said it expects about 24 million U.S. cellular subscribers will be purchasing some form of TV/video content and services by 2010, up from about seven million this year. For its part, market research firm iSuppli predicts global revenue in this area will exceed $43 billion in the same timeframe.
The rise in the popularity of premium mobile content comes at what iSuppli vice president of multimedia services and content Mark Kirsten has characterized as "an historic inflection point."
"After years of hyper growth, markets in several major regions around the world are maturing, resulting in slower subscriber growth and declining average revenue per user for wireless communications carriers," Kirsten wrote earlier this year. "Meanwhile, new 3G networks offer increased bandwidth, but require compelling applications and content to drive revenue and provide a return on investment to operators."
Right now, mobile users who download songs onto their phones typically cannot later transfer the content to a PC or iPod, or even use that content as a ringtone. But the new agreement between Nokia and Microsoft promises to change all that by making it a straightforward process to move multimedia content among different devices, which is good news for wireless carriers in search of new ways to boost revenue.
"Microsoft PlayReady technology will help us usher in a new era of mobile digital media in a seamless, flexible manner that our consumers demand," Jim Straight, Verizon Wireless vice president of data services, said in a March statement.
Mobile Content Rentals?
Although rivals in the mobile software arena, Nokia and Microsoft have decided to join forces because keeping the growth of mobile content on an exponential curve is a mutual interest.
As part of their latest deal, which expands on even earlier cooperation between the two giants, Nokia and Microsoft will collaborate on expanding and simplifying the consumer technology used to access and move digital content on mobile phones. Another goal is to enable more flexible business models that would allow customers to rent mobile content or even access it while offline.
When PlayReady arrives on Nokia's mobile phones beginning next year, it will offer support for a wide variety of audio and video content formats, including Windows Media Audio, Windows Media Video, AAC, and H.264. The technology also will be fully compatible with Microsoft's current Windows Media DRM system.