RealTime IT News

Microsoft, Motorola in Music Pact

Microsoft's Windows Media technologies will soon be integrated into a number of Motorola's mobile phone/music handsets, allowing users to transfer downloaded music from their PCs (via a USB cable) to their phones.

Motorola and Microsoft announced the collaboration at 3GSM, an annual meet-and-greet for those who conjure up new ways for people to communicate and entertain themselves while on the move.

Convergence -- companies coming together to meld their technologies -- and mobile entertainment offerings are one of the primary focuses at this year's show, where the powers-that-be have evidently decided that digital music and podcasts should break free from PCs and MP3 players.

The real-world jury is still out on whether consumers crave yet another personal soundtrack system, but tech companies and mobile phone manufactures seem convinced that people want noisy phones.

"A lot of our customers have been asking for better integration of our phones with Windows," said Chris White, senior director of global product marketing for Motorola. "There's a new world out there that we're seeing grow -- the subscription-based model for music. In mobile space, we're excited about what that means. Sharing music through instant messaging, Wi-Fi connection, etc."

The new Motorola handsets will ship with preloaded versions of Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM).

In theory, Windows Media Player will automatically recognize a Motorola handset when it's connected to a PC and, according to a statement, "music acquired from any pay-per-download or subscription store using Windows Media technology will transfer and playback on Motorola handsets."

But there's no word as yet on whether music plucked from file-sharing services will also play on the handsets. It seems logical that any tune that plays in Windows Media Player will also work on the new phones. Though some songs that play on a PC simply won't play on a portable device that supports Windows Media DRM.

Apart from DRM protection, the Motorola handsets will also include Windows Media Audio (WMA), the enhanced Windows Media Audio Pro codec and Media Transfer Protocol (MTP).

Spokespeople from both companies said this software will allow users to access content from a wide range of online music stores. Support for music downloads on-the-go (also known as "over-the-air" downloads) is expected to debut in 2007.

Motorola also announced it will be partnering with Web portal company Yahoo to bring Yahoo's Podcasts to mobile phones.

Using the Motorola/Yahoo application users will be able to drag and drop podcasts directly from a PC straight onto their mobile phone, or can directly download podcasts to their handset using an integrated application on the phone.

The company demonstrated this offering on a Motorola RAZR V3x handset.

In other news from GSM, Japan's NTT DoCoMo is demonstrating "super 3G" mobile phones that can download data at 3.6Mbps, nearly 10 times faster than the transfer speeds possible with current 3G phones.

Other expected announcements include dual-mode mobiles that can work in both wireless and landline mode, as well as handsets that are capable of receiving and displaying broadcast TV signals.

Some 50,000 attendees are expected at this year's conference, which outgrew its former home in Cannes, France and is being held this year in Barcelona.