MMW-86 -- Carriers Expand Full-Song Music Features

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

Issue No. 86
Wednesday, October 12, 2005


++ FEATURE: Carriers Expand Full-Song Music Features
** DoCoMo Releases 'Music Porter II'
** Nifty Announces Launch of Online Music Store
** Bandai Enters Record Label Business
** Chaku-uta Full Tops 20 Million Downloads
** TOS Releases Chaku-uta Version of Hanshin Tigers Fight Song

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++ FEATURE: Carriers Expand Full-Song Music Features

For the last several days, rumors have been circulating in the
Japanese mobile industry that NTT DoCoMo is in talks with Apple
to develop an 'iTunes Phone' similar to the ROKR model recently
announced by Motorola. Last Friday, Fuji Sankei Business reported
that such a tie-up appeared likely and could provide a strong boost
to DoCoMo's mobile music business. The article went on to suggest
that DoCoMo's strategy would likely focus on transfering songs from
the PC to the phone rather than over-the-air downloads, and that
the phone would be sold under DoCoMo's brand rather than Apple's.

If DoCoMo does pursue a partnership with Apple on development of
an iTunes phone, it would certainly fit in with their policy of
emphasizing transfer from PC-to-phone rather than full-song
wireless downloads. DoCoMo's latest 'Music Phone' offering -
the Music Porter II - allows transfer and playback of files in MP3,
AAC and ATRAC3 formats, making it compatible with Label Gates's
Mora online music store.

Furthermore, DoCoMo execs have largely downplayed the success
of chaku-uta full (full song over-the-air downloads) in Japan, pointing
to the fact that serious music fans still prefer dedicated players such
the iPod. At the same time, however, there has been much
speculation here that as the only one of Japan's three major wireless
carriers without full-song downloads, DoCoMo is now feeling added
pressure to start its own chaku-uta full service and may well do so
in the near future.

Meanwhile, KDDI continues to release strong sales figures for
chaku-uta full. On Sept. 28, the carrier announced that chaku-uta
full had topped 20 million downloads in its first 10 months. These
numbers are also very close to those for chaku-uta song clips,
which hit 20 million downloads in its first 9 months. At present,
there are more than 60,000 total songs spread across 46 different
chaku-uta full sites on KDDI. The total number of KDDI phones
sold that support full-song downloads is estimated at around 4 million.

However, there have also been questions lately surrounding
chaku-uta full. KDDI has been unusually protective about allowing
third party chaku-uta full providers onto its menu. In stark contrast
to its other music services, KDDI is not accepting proposals from
content providers for chaku-uta full. The company had planned to
have a public 'Request For Proposals' this fall, but these plans were
later quietly cancelled without explanation. KDDI says it currently
has no plans regarding the acceptance of future proposals for
chaku-uta full.

Vodafone, by far the smallest of Japan's carriers in terms of 3G
subscribers, started its own full-song download service last summer.
Compared with KDDI's service, Vodafone's offering is still quite
limited, with only 20 sites and a much smaller song catalog.
The service is currently only supported on two handset models.
In addition to its fledgling full-song download service, Vodafone has
also released a new model (the 803T; see MMW #85), which features
an advanced music player interface as well as the ability to mix
chaku-uta full with MP3 tracks copied from CDs or elsewhere.

So, while Japan's three wireless carriers are pursuing different
strategies regarding full-music download and playback, one thing is
clear: the market dynamics for full-song services are shaping up to
be very different from those for previous music services such as
ringtones and real music clips.

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** DoCoMo Releases 'Music Porter II'
In brief: NTT DoCoMo recently announced the release of its 'Music
Porter II,' FOMA handset, the company's top 'mobile music' phone.
The Music Porter II features extended battery life with a maximum 20
hours of continuous music play possible. The phone also has an FM
radio tuner and can play digital music files in MP3, AAC, ATRAC3
and ATRAC3-plus formats.

** Nifty Announces Launch of Online Music Store
In brief: Nifty announced last week that it would launch its own
online music store at the end of October. The new service will be
called MOOCS and will offer tracks in AAC format that can be
played on mobile phones after downloading them to PC.

** Bandai Enters Record Label Business
In brief: Bandai Networks recently became the latest mobile content
company to announce it was getting into the record label business.
Together with Spice Music, Daiichi Koushou, and HapiNet, Bandai
announced the formation of a joint venture called 'Spice Records,'
and will use digital music distribution systems developed
by Bandai and Daiichi Koushou.
Nikkei Sangyou Shimbun - Sept. 28, 2005

** Chaku-uta Full Tops 20 Million Downloads
In brief: KDDI and Okinawa Cellular announced that the total number
of chaku-uta full downloads reached 20 million tracks on
September 28. The service was launched in November 2004, and
topped 10 million downloads in June 2005. KDDI currently has
46 chaku-uta full sites offering a total of 60,000 tracks.

** TOS Releases Chaku-uta Version of Hanshin Tigers Fight Song
In brief: On September 29, TOS released a chaku-uta version of
the Hanshin Tigers 'fight song' on its 'Maho No Melo Land' chaku-uta
service for i-mode and EZWeb. The song became available for
download as soon as the team clinched its final victory to win
the Japanese Central League.

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Written by: Steve Myers