MMW-33 -- Mobile Music Miscellany

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 33
Thursday, October 31, 2002



++ FEATURE: Mobile Music Miscellany

- Ringtones Still Most Popular Mobile Content in Asia
- New Version of Freenet Released
- Reaches Agreement With Record Labels

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++ FEATURE: Mobile Music Miscellany

Lately, I've been so busy working on various music software projects
that it's been difficult finding time to write. What follows, then, is
a smattering of recent developments in mobile music that have had some
bearing on my work over the last few weeks:

1. Belgium i-mode, Toshiba TS21i to Debut Soon
We first mentioned the Belgium i-mode and TS21i launch in separate
features a few months ago. Recall that the TS21i will be the first
i-mode phone to play ringtone files in MIDI format rather than in MFi
format. Furthermore, the Toshiba model is the first European i-mode
handset to compete with NEC's N21i. While European i-mode ringtone
providers have been busy preparing MIDI versions of their songs for
the new phone, the launch of the TS21i has been delayed due to
"quality-related problems." It is unclear at present whether any of
these problems are related to sound and/or the MIDI playback feature.
While there is still no official announcement, both the Belgium i-mode
service and the TS21i are believed to be slated for an early November

2. Mobile Phones Moving Closer to MP3 Playback?
I'm often asked how long it will be before ringtones in Japan give way
to full MP3 download capability on mobile phones. Despite some reports
to the contrary, it looks like there may be several intermediate
stages before mobile phone users will be able to download anything
akin to MP3s. At present, a downloadable sound file has a size limit
of around 6KB to 20KB, depending on the carrier. This means that a
single file can only play about 2-3 seconds of roughly sampled WAV

However, we are starting to see Java applications that allow a larger
file to be broken up into smaller pieces -- each of which fits under
the size limit -- which can be downloaded separately, then reassembled
for playback on the phone by the application. We expect to see several
applications appear in the near future that allow users to download
and play WAV clips of up to about 20 seconds or so. Of course, the
question of whether or not users will be willing to pay the
substantial packet charges incurred by these apps is another matter...

3. Wildseed Partners with Kyocera Wireless
Wildseed and Kyocera Wireless recently announced a partnership whereby
Kyocera Wireless will manufacture a new phone for the US that
incorporates Wildseed's software. In addition to making "SmartSkin"
faceplates for changing the look of the phone, Wildseed is also at the
leading edge of mobile sound and ringtone creation for the US market.
The new phone will feature 16-voice polyphonic ringtones, FM radio and
a "keypad music visualizer" in which the phone buttons light up in
different colors depending on the music. (Note: In the next MMW
feature, we'll examine the sound and ringtone features of the new
phone in more detail.)

4. Mobile Music for Japanese Pubs
It's no secret that the main beneficiaries of Japan's three-year
ringtone boom are companies that were previously active in making
karaoke devices, software and songs. For several of these companies,
ringtones came along just as the karaoke market hit an all-time low,
allowing them to not only survive but actually grow and prosper in the
midst of a tough recession. Like everyone else, though, these
companies realize that ringtone revenues will not last forever and are
now looking around for the next big wave to catch.

We know of at least two such companies that are looking at marketing a
new kind of mobile device. With a Web browser similar to that of the
phones, but featuring a larger screen and better sound, these new
devices would be leased to Japanese pubs and karaoke houses, which
would then charge patrons an hourly rate to access the content. This
content is downloaded from a central server and designed for a
"drinking clientele." This arrangement allows the karaoke companies to
leverage their nationwide network of relationships with pub owners,
their rights to popular songs and games, and their newfound expertise
in mobile content production.

-- Steve Myers

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** Survey Finds Ringtones Still Most Popular Mobile Content in Asia

In brief: Nikkei BP Consulting, a Tokyo-based market research company,
reported in the results of a recent survey that ringtones are still
the most popular form of mobile phone content in the three major Asian
markets: South Korea, China and Japan. The report states that in Japan
and Korea, ringtone services are "accessed far more than any other
type of content." The report goes on to say that if SMS-based ringtone
download services are also included, then ringtones are also the most
popular form of content in China.


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** New Version of Freenet Released

In brief: The volunteer developers working on the Freenet project
announced the release of a new version of the software last Monday.
One of the distinguishing features of Freenet is its dedication to
wholly anonymous publishing and distribution via the Web. Whereas
users of a typical file-sharing service such as Kazaa or Napster
expose their IP addresses (which can be traced through their Internet
service provider) each time they download content, the Freenet
developers have built in higher levels of encryption and anonymity,
with the aim of allowing uncensorable speech and untraceable


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** Reaches Agreement with Record Labels

In brief: Following hot on the heels of Pressplay and FullAudio,
digital music provider announced last week that it also has
reached agreements with several major recording companies that will
allow users of the company's Rhapsody service to copy downloaded music
files onto CDs. Despite the fact that at 1 euro per song, the cost of
a full album is not much different from buying the CD in a store, the
recent agreements are seen as significant because they represent a
loosening on the part of the record labels regarding the licensing of
music rights to digital music providers.


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Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies,
which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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