Nokia Starts Its Big Music Push

New York — Nokia, after spending considerable resources on making photos and videos part of the mobile experience, is turning its attention to music. At the Nokia Open Studio event in New York City, the company gave a glimpse at what could be coming from world’s largest mobile handset maker.
Nokia, as many of you might remember had bought struggling Loudeye music service back in August 2006 for $60 million dollars. That service is going to become a strategic component of this music service; as critical as the enhanced music playback abilities of some of the Nokia N Series phones.
The company today announced that it is increasing N91’s hard drive capacity to 8GB (just like iPod Nano), and also introduced Nokia N95 and Nokia N75 models that place a heavy emphasis on music. Then there are the usual suspects, Nokia N73 (this one has a hit written all over it) and the slightly older Nokia N70 and N80 phones.

Hardware is only part of the equation, and senior Nokia executives acknowledge that the company has to build an enhanced experience around their devices. This involves a building better software, and more value added services such as its new music discovery and recommendation service that will be curated by David Bowie and will feature selections from independent music stores from around the world.
Nokia’s seriousness about music is going to be on display this evening at a star studded party: Gnarls Barkley is going to perform live and the company is promising to unleash some more music related features.
Nokia will have to continuously innovate to bring people to its phones, and brand itself as a music player. The company faces an uphill challenge – Sony Ericsson has a big presence with its Walkman phone, and of course there is the ubiquitous iPod.
Apple is rumored to be in partnership talks with Cingular and become a player in the mobile music space. Of course there are LG, Samsung and most handset makers are interested in getting a piece of the mobile music market – estimated to be $7.5 billion by 2010, according to eMarketer.

“A significant barrier to mobile music consumption is the dearth of devices that support the activity,” said Seamus McAteer, senior analyst, M:Metrics. “We are, however, seeing an influx of music-friendly devices on the market, with removable storage and better interfaces for accessing songs, as well as consumer education by the operators, all of which will foster growth in the sector.”

Whatever the future holds, there is a good chance Nokia is going to find more success with its music efforts in its own backyard – Europe. The iPod phenomenon is raging in the US, and is unlikely to taper out anytime soon. (I am nominating Nokia’s decision to call these beautiful, and sometimes impractical phones Multi Media Computers to Business 2.0’s infamous list that comes out around Christmas time.)
Photos: Nokia, M:Metrics.