Battling for Mobile iTunes

Motorola’s iTunes phone is on hold for now, thanks to poor signal quality from the carriers. Frankly, why is anyone surprised that carriers are trying to make sure that the iTunes phone sleeps with the fishes?

The stunning Rokr no-show at two of Motorola’s prime product showcases offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the power struggle between phonemakers and the phone companies that want to play a big role in the music download business. “This is a manifestation of conflict we’ll see more and more as the phone takes on additional functionality,” says Yankee Group analyst John Jackson.

In past two years, thanks to consolidation in the wireless marketplace, we are left with a dozen odd carriers who dominate the wireless planet. Last year they tried hard, and succeeded in making handset makers become nothing but glorified ODMs, and now the iTunes saga. Wireless giants have created a walled garden around their phones, and are trying hard to keep everything out of that garden that hasn’t been approved by them, or doesn’t get them a few shekels.

iTunes, is a clear and present danger to the music services most of the carriers are offering. Never mind, that most of these services are as likely to succeed as Kansas City Royals winning the World Series. Being phone companies, they have not figured out the whole “user experience thing.” Secondly, they are battling with the record companies over who gets to keep how much out of online music sales. And lastly, if you have tried to get music onto your cellphone, well you know that’s easier than trying to replicate Emeril Lagassee’s cooking in a kitchen with one pot and two pans. I have attempted that on a Samsung p777, Sony Ericsson S710 and a sundry other phones. Its a painful process, and well not even worth the effort.

And if that was not enough – I have spent $2000 buying music from either Apple or Music Match stores. And if I have to pay for the same 50 Cent track again, well I am not even going to bother. So if the wireless operators want me to buy their high end phones with music features etc, well they make sure I am happy. And as a consumer, there are still four options – I can still go with the one which keeps me happy.

As an aside, if I am carrier looking to add a few million subscribers, all I have to do is add support for this iTunes phone, order 500,000 of these units and see a huge migratory herd switch to their service. Any takers? T-Mobile, here is your chance – after all you don’t have a 3G network to offer digital music downloads anyway! Don’t wait – this could be your big chance!