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Music for the wireless- itunes or visual radio?

January 27, 2005

Motorola appears to be on something of a roll, the brilliantly designed Razr phone has been an incredible success, so much so, that Razr is set to become a sub-brand for the company. New lines will be rolled out over the course of the year, including an eagerly anticipated iTunes phone that was recently soft-launched at Macworld and CES.

Nokia might have the answer for iTunes in the form of Visual Radio It’s basically a radio tuner embedded in your phone, but it’s the radio experience of the future. Listeners can easily change station by genre, they can interact with the station for competitions with instant messaging and they can download music.

It’s possible to see some radio stations maximizing their editiorial/discovery role through this new technology. One such example is KCRW who have in a short space of time become “the discovery radio station” and have accomplished something unusual, using the web to expand their geography. This is precisely the radio brand that could work on Visual Radio because it provides a very strong point of view, navigating people to new music. A role that’s becoming more important as music tastes and interest expand.

These approaches are essentially two different flavors of the same thing; one with a increasingly familiar interface and easy to use software, but very little editorial guidance and the other a traditional format in a new interface with lots of editorial guidance.

Influx is unsure if this battle is a sprint, it seems more like a marathon.
A possible scenario is that Motorola succeed in the short-term because of the momentum of iPod, making the iTunes phone a “must have” accessory.

Nokia may win out in the long-term, because its idea is bigger, but it may take longer to fully realize, with wrangles over legal issues and the time it will take for consumers to get into the new habit.

Ultimately, the two ideas will get collapsed into one; a personal music library in a wireless phone, one that can be updated either by visiting an online store or through purchase while listening to the radio.

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