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Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence

Picture of Alex Yap
Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Alex Yap - Friday, 30 September 2005, 5:24 PM
Apple vice president and iPod division head Jon Rubenstein said: "Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine. It works the same way with the iPod, the digital camera or mobile phone: it is important to have specialized devices."

(side note - there are two toaster/coffee machines)

It is trite to say that the mobile phone has become pervasive in modern society. The iPod has also become rather popular. Now - the problem with most converged devices is the sacrifices which have to be made; this is very obvious for the toaster/coffemaker - because there are virtually no shared components. The situation is different for a music playing mobile. Indeed, the only real barriers are price (and size, to a lesser extent); both devices share a need for a display, an input mechanism, storage space, and attractive design. Perhaps simplicity is a virtue, but surely the convenience of a converged device is sometimes preferable? Indeed, the Zeitgeist encourages convergence.

The has already occured twice to mobile phones. First it was converged with the PDA; second, it is about to be converged with digital cameras. The PDA convergence is virtually complete, at least for what used to be known as the Pocket PC. A wide range of devices now available from HTC makes it such that purchasing a PDA for daily use is easier if you also intend for it to be your phone - why carry two devices when a single device (of the same size/weight/shape) will do better? The situation is not as clear for digital cameras, because the picture quality from mobile phones is still lacking - but the intrinsic issue there is that carrying a camera around always was never as common as it is today, and it has arguably only become so common because of the availability of camera phones.

This issue is also likely to exist in the case of music players - not everyone carries one around - but what about the portion of the population which does? And indeed, something else Rubenstein said argues for convergence, using his criterion that a converged device should make things better. I quote: "The iPod is substantially more difficult to copy than that Walkman was. It contains a whole ecosystem of different elements, which coordinate with each other: hardware, software, and our iTunes Music store on the Internet."

Modern mobile phones have all this nice bandwidth (at least 144Kbps) lying around, searching for a purpose... and now imagine if you had the option of a subscription based, unlimited use music service...

The iPod hardware is a work of art, and it's software is incredibly easy to use - but wouldn't you trade (a little bit of) that off for a device with which you had immediate access to every song in the world, in the palm of your hand?
Picture of Simon Cavill
Re: Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Simon Cavill - Friday, 30 September 2005, 6:14 PM
>Modern mobile phones have all this nice bandwidth (at least 144Kbps) lying >around, searching for a purpose... and now imagine if you had the option of a >subscription based, unlimited use music service...

At least 144Kbps - Don't believe the Hype... (as Public Enemy used to say!) The fact is that certainly in the UK and Europe there is only a TOTAL of 2Mb bandwidth available per base station to be shared between all active devices. Given that data is still absolutely dwarfed by voice revenue, all operators prioritize voice over data so your phone is now trying to share whatever bandwidth is left. Assuming you stay still and there are no other data users on your cell then you might get something like this - But for how long? Long enough to get half a 3-4Mb track? What happens then?

Forget the technical issues - iTunes are $.99c each - What sort of premium would an operator want to allow that to happen on their network? And just how much would the tariff charges be to move 3-4MB of data each time (assuming you could....)

No - Unless the tracks get very much smaller - and correspondingly poor in quality on any decent sounding device, or the MNO's suddenly become charities, I don't think this is going to be feasible for a while - Yes O2, Orange and others have tried it in the UK, but the user uptake is tiny and soon fades away once reality sets in....

Having said that, you will soon be able to download music tracks in the UK to your phone at a slight premium and with no additional data charges. Thats because the service will deliver streamed content over DAB radio into your device - But thats another story....

Simon Cavill
CTO Mi-Pay
Picture of Tomi Ahonen
Sounding awefully pessimistic - Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Tomi Ahonen - Sunday, 2 October 2005, 7:57 AM

Hi Alex and Simon

I think we're actually past those concerns already. You may have missed it, but the point when direct sales of full tracks to mobile phones exceed that of i-Tunes is not about to happen; it happened already, in 2004. During 2004 the worldwide sales of i-Tunes amounted to 300 million dollars. The worldwide sales of full music tracks to mobile phones (excluding ringing tones, real tones, and ringback/waiting tones) was 400 million dollars. Obviously, due to the penetration rates of suitable phones, most of those music sales were in Korea and Japan. But the music industry noticed, and for example this week's New Media Age mentions in passing that EMI's Vice President for Digital Development and Content, Ted Cohen, acknowledged that of course the mobile phone will be the dominant music player.

But like with PDAs and Digital Cameras before when facing the threat from mobile phones, the specialized devices become ever more niche-oriented - we will not see professional wedding photographers showing up with a cameraphone - we will also see the evolution of the i-Pod to become the niche specialist tool, for the serious music fans and professionals such as musicians and DJ's. But for the mass market? If the next Motorola or Nokia will ship with the MP3 player anyway, and there is enough storage for 500 or 1000 songs early next year, most will be satisfied with that.

Oh, for context. Like Alex said, the PDA was the first to lose its battle against the mobile phone. PDA-featured smartphones outsold "standalone" ie PDAs in 2004 already more than 8 to 1. What Alex probably you hadn't noticed from the sales figures is that the digital camera situation has be come identical already. During 2005 the same pattern is happening with digital cameras and cameraphones. The ratio was something like 3:1 or 4:1 last year, but now during 2005 it will be close to 8:1 if not 10:1. So there is no contest anymore, no question. More cameraphones are sold during 2005, than all non-phone digital cameras ever made. Because mobile phones are replaced on average every 23 months, and because 30% of the planet, and every economically viable person, carries one; it means that any digital system that can be incorporated into the phone, will immediately become the dominant one versus any other digital pretenders.

The only reason the i-Pod had its four years of relatively no competition, was that the industry was focused elsewhere (and thus Apple had its market all to itself, being only pestered by the other standalone MP3 makers like Creative Labs etc). It takes about 18 months to incorporate a new ability to a mobile phone platform, and about 18 months ago, in the Spring of 2004, the numbers from 2003 sales of i-Tunes (and direct music downloads in Korea and Japan) were verifying there was real business in portable music.

Remember that when i-Pod was launched, many argued that the market was saturated due to Walkman sales stagnation, and that Napster and similar services were destroying the music market. Only after the handset makers were convinced there was a future for music on mobile (beyond ringing tones, obviously), did they start their music player programmes. The Nokia 7600 was a rather stop-gap first solution a year ago, while Motorola Rokr is now one of the first entrants of the serious moves in this space.

Now to the music downloads. The mobile operators are rushing these systems as fast as they can clear the music rights matters with the domestic representatives of the major record labels. We have many operators already boasting music catalogues in the 10,000s of full tracks and beyond. The phone is about to become the dominant music sales platform. Or that at least is my strongly held opinion, ha-ha..

Tomi Ahonen / HatRat   :-)

Picture of Alex de Carvalho
Re: Sounding awefully pessimistic - Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Alex de Carvalho - Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 8:12 PM
These are enlightening stats which attest to the increased pervasiveness of the mobile.

Audio in all forms, whether a downloaded mp3, podcast or streaming radio serves as good ambient media which you consume on a mobile device while you do other things, like move around town. Other types of mobile ambient media might include playing short games which can be continued later, reading or sending SMS, listening to voice mail, checking your to-do list or bluejacking others in the metro.

Immersive media, such as watching a movie, requires longer periods of concentration which mobiles for the most part are not (yet) ideally suited for. Immersive media for the phone would include phone calls and might include listening to serious podcasts or radio talk shows, browsing the internet or wap or writing an email.
Picture of Tomi Ahonen
Video killed the Radio Star - Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Tomi Ahonen - Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 9:11 AM

Hi Alex

I think we are also on the verge of something bigger that is music related. Back in the 1970s radio was king in determining if any given pop or rock star became a hit. Then came MTV in 1981 (with the broadcast of that Bugles hit Video Killed the Radio Star as the first music video they ever aired). Today every artist knows that there is practically no chance of major record sales success without video exposure. Radio is a nice to have add-on, but getting your video onto the heavy rotation on MTV is your key to success..

Along those lines, and borrowing on your thought of being immersed in the content, I think music video bridges that gap. It is "better" than just music (and I don't intend to get into an argument whether rock bands are better live or on video) and can be used as background "noise", but an interesting video will also capture the interest of the viewer.

As to the 3G phone, it is a natural platform for music videos. The individual component of content are always short clips of between 3 and 4 minutes in length. And its youth-oritented content. All we need now, is to find the suitable payment model - am certain here is one where the youth is very willing to accept advertising, if they get music videos streamed straight to their 3G phones. And/or here is the big opportunity for capturing youth viewers for DVB-H broadcasts to mobile phones.

So yes, music is big. But music video will be bigger?

Tomi Ahonen / HatRat   :-)

Picture of Olof Schybergson
Why music on the mobile will happen
by Olof Schybergson - Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 12:32 PM
Hi. I agree very much with what Tomi and others have been saying: music on the mobile will happen, in a big way. Why?

Beyond some of the excellent points already made, I would list a few simple reasons:
- Mobile phones (inluding music-optimised phones) are subsidised in most countries, including the UK. That means that the end user can pick up an iPod-like device (same storage, battery life, dedicated hard keys, etc.) that's ALSO a high-end mobile phone for a price tag that's maybe 20% of the cost of an iPod. Most consumers would pick the music phone.
- Music and audio are already integral components of phones. Phones are used primarily for audio conversations, and ringtones have become a multi-billion pound industry in a few years time (revenues that make the iTunes music sales revenues look miniscule). So extending the phone into music consumption is a natural step for the industry and for consumers.
- The phone already has a SIM card and a network connection, unlike the iPod. Putting aside the debate about bandwidth for a moment, it is obvious that there is lots of information and content out there that could make music discovery and consumption more attractive for users. For example, you might want to send a song recommendation to a friend, you might want to find out about an artist's previous production, you might want to debate your favourite music with people that have similar taste to you. None of this is possible on the iPod, while it's a natural extension of music consumption on the mobile.

My views are probably biased as I'm working on a mobile music project at the moment at Fjord, but after studying the space and reading various reports about digital music, I think music will be an experience that will be consumed increasingly through the mobile. Naturally there will be a market for specialised music consumption devices too, like the iPod. But the volume will shift to music mobile phones very quickly.
Picture of Jörg Welters
Re: (Why) music on the mobile will happen
by Jörg Welters - Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 3:23 PM

It is not a question why it will happen. As Tomy mentioned before it is happening right now.

The only question for me is who will earn the money? The mobile operators are very well positioned as they have the direct relationship to their subscribers. On the other hand I see them struggeling dealing with the media companies and also with really compelling offers to the end-user. But who will fill the gap or will the mobile operators be able to learn fast enough?

I personally believe that a media company like BMG, Sony, etc. will make the race and the mobile operators will serve as a bitpipe and get some revenue sharing. And this is not a bad deal for the operators.

Picture of William Volk
Re: (Why) music on the mobile will happen
by William Volk - Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 5:22 PM

Apple will build a WiMax/WiFi handset with REAL OTA iTunes.

Don't listen to the smokescreen.  Two weeks before the new video-capable iPods were announced, Steve Jobs was pooh-poohing the entire concept of handheld video players.

Look at the new iPod, 20 hours of battery life, 150 hours of video ... it's expensive but that's Apple's business.  Selling high margin hardware.

The mobile carriers won't give up their 40% P-SMS margins.  You can't sell music for $0.99/track in their world.

I've talked to some of the WiMax Carrier people and this COULD be a very distruptive technology in mobile.

Remember how GSM rolled out in a few urban areas. 
Picture of William Volk
Re: (Why) music on the mobile will happen
by William Volk - Wednesday, 16 November 2011, 4:18 PM
Turns out I was almost right!

Back when Apple started planning the first iPhone in 2005, Steve Jobs wanted to bypass wireless carriers completely and build a phone that would let users place calls over Wi-Fi networks.

That's what cell phone industry vet John Stanton told a crowd in Seattle yesterday, as reported by IDG.

Ben Gibbs
Re: (Why) music on the mobile will happen
by Ben Gibbs - Friday, 18 November 2011, 10:30 PM
Republic Wireless (http://republicwireless.com/) just launched a WiFi-focused network in the US, with fallback to Sprint for wide-area use - $19/month all-you-can-eat. They send/receive text, voice and data traffic over WiFi if available and delve into their MVNO bulk bucket of mins/bits/txts from Sprint when the users isn't on WiFi. So long as most users stay on a WiFi network (very easy to do in the US at work, home and shopping), and they boot off the excessive WAN users it could work. Only downside is you have to buy their cheapy LG phone to use it. Is there a similar SIM card-based service elsewhere?
Stuart Henshall
Re: (Why) music on the mobile will happen
by Stuart henshall - Monday, 28 November 2011, 11:24 PM
Interesting to see such an old thread come back to life. 

I recently pushed my music to iTunes Match. I'm still experimenting with it. It was worth the 25 bucks just to upload the music and then download some 10000 tracks back at 256kbps. Logged in as new user as in new Mac opened an empty iTunes - signed in... and select all and download. A painless upgrade.

The economics are interesting... The difference between a 16gb and a 32gb iPhone is $100 or four years of iTunes match. You can't put 25000 songs in 10gb at 256kbps. So why trade up memory on that iPad or iPhone when music was limited to 10gb when you had 40gb of music? 

Adapted the same iTunes account. Now many devices have access to all music without needing a PC on. 

If you have played with iTunes DJ it is pretty neat. However that is via the remote back to your PC. Now I want iTunes DJ using shared phones where they are an adhoc network all with access back to the cloud... where we can share or play anyone's music.... 

Re is the music on the device or not... It's now a remote for my stereo. My Stereo runs off an Airport - music is streamed from any Airplay device. The listening experience is many times better (as in more engaging, easier to queue tracks, engage others, info re whats playing etc / Not sound quality which still is with vinyl!). 

There's a change when a small device moves from "fill your head with music" to power the music experience anywhere. Car, home, out n about? friends? Airplay in the Park? Anyone? 
Picture of Alan Moore
Re: Why music on the mobile will happen
by Alan Moore - Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 6:35 PM
Dear Olaf,

If it were possible I would be very interested if you could share with me the reports on digital music formats.

you can email me alanm@smlxtralarge.com
Picture of Noel Hurley
Re: Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Noel Hurley - Thursday, 27 October 2005, 6:44 PM

Technology, technology technology.... ultimately people will buy "cool" products. There is a desire in all of us (whether you admit it or not) to own devices. In this day and age what we buy defines us.

Convergent devices can hide who we are. If you see me listerning to music through my phone, then I am an average music listerner. If you see me with an iPOD and some expensive headphones, I become a music buff. If I like photography, I will buy a digital camera, even if the one on my phone is good enough. I want to display "who I am" and I will do that by buying and displaying the devices I treasure.

I think us techys tend to underestimate human psycology. Something that Apple have an excellent grasp of. The iPOD is sucessfull not because it is technically superiour (arguably it is inferiour), it is sucessfull because of the way it makes people feel. Apple have created that "feel" through a combination of good advertising and good ergonomic design. It is the product to be seen owning...

So phones will do MP3 / itunes, what ever, but that doesn't mean there will be no dedicated music players in the future.

Picture of Werner Egipsy Souza
Re: Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Werner Egipsy Souza - Friday, 25 November 2011, 5:05 PM
Having used a separate MP3 player, first a CD player, then the Cowon E2, I am finally sold on using my N8 as the first point of download for music.

The Internet radio application has an option, whereby songs being listened to, can be directly downloaded over Ovi Music(where the audio resolution is just 32kbps).

The main question, is regarding sustainable economics.

Another question, is regarding customised mobile music, which is specially made for use as a ringtone, ringback tone, alarm or message tone.

Picture of Tomi Ahonen
Wow, a Thread still alive from 2005 - Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Tomi Ahonen - Monday, 9 January 2012, 9:39 PM
Wow guys!

(sorry for the radio silence, its been that crazy recently but am back!)

So this topic is suddenly again alive - it originated from year Two Thousand and... Five ! (and that rhymes?)

My little update to this story is from about Q3 results I think it was 2009, from Apple, where the Apple CTO Oppenheimer admitted that the iPhone was created at Apple and rushed to the market explicitly because they saw the musicphones cannibalizing stand-alone MP3 players like the iPod. 

To us 'here in the future' its no surprise that between 25% and 35% of mobile phone users listen to music on their phones - across the planet's 5.9 Billion mobile subscribers thats haha... about what 1.8 Billion consumers. So musicphones today have an active user base that is many times bigger than all other stand-alone type of music players ever produced including iPods, other MP3 players like Zune, and all cassette based players like the Walkman etc. Yeah, its safe to say that the musicphone utterly crushed its competitors haha..

And on the similar themes, just latest news yesterday from USA are stats that for the Christmas 2011 sales the unit sales for video camcorders and stand-alone cameras have fallen dramatically.. (like we predicted here on the Forum half a decade ago)

But it was nice to read that old thread and see how clever we all were more than six years ago

Tomi Ahonen / HatRat    :-)
Picture of Alex Kerr
Re: Wow, a Thread still alive from 2005 - Music Players and Mobile Phone Convergence
by Alex Kerr - Tuesday, 10 January 2012, 1:07 PM
just latest news yesterday from USA are stats that for the Christmas 2011 sales the unit sales for video camcorders and stand-alone cameras have fallen dramatically.. (like we predicted here on the Forum half a decade ago)

Well Kodak's just filed for bankruptcy - says it all really. And Nokia's been by far the largest producer of cameras in the world for years...

And while we're on the subject I hear TomTom and Garmin are seriously struggling too (and being a Nokia bore (!) I am willing to bet that Nokia are the largest seller of GPS too!).

Noting that at least in theory Kodak, Tom Tom and Garmin could all have 'got with the program' and seen the trends and gone with the flow in some way, but instead decided to try and stand against the flow. Big lessons there.

And noting also that the dominant software king of the beige box era - Microsoft - are now making practically zero impact in the phone world [insert lament about Nokia tie-up stupidity here!]