Nokia Pumps Up Lumia's Volume With US Music Launch
Nokia's announcement that U.S. Lumia users will now have access to its music service has succeeded in creating some buzz in advance of the company's major event this week, but will it change anything much for the struggling brand? This is a make-or-break time for Nokia, and in order to play on the same field with Apple, for example, a music service may be a bare necessity.
09/04/12 2:31 PM PT
Nokia on Tuesday introduced a new music app that provides U.S. Lumia handset owners access to its free streaming music service. "Nokia Music," as it is called, offers more than 150 different playlists, which are reportedly compiled by a team of music experts.
In addition to the range of genres provided in the lists, users can create their own lists based on favorite music and artists, including featured tracks from such heavyhitters as Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
But if a song plays only on a device few people actually own, does it actually make a sound?
"The real question is, where is the value?" said Dan Cryan, senior principal analyst for broadband media at IHS iSuppli. "In Nokia's case, it is increasingly in making their devices look attractive to the consumer. It is similar to what Google has been doing with Google Play. It is all about making the devices look compelling and appealing to consumers."
Given the number of similar services available, though, is Nokia Music likely to fall on deaf ears?
"It does seem pretty late in the game to be offering a new music service," said Roger Kay, principal analyst for Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Given what's already out there, it's hard to see many people adopting this one."
Appeal and Conceal
The timing of the release of this service is especially interesting, given that Nokia and Microsoft are poised to announce details for the Windows Phone 8 handsets in the coming days. Is this a distraction -- or is it designed to generate buzz about Nokia's existing handsets?
Might it even be something that truly disrupts the mobile handset and music industries?
"This music service has the potential to be a threat to other music services, but I don't think that will happen," said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan.
"Other music services are entrenched. Nokia is a newcomer to this space," Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. "So while this is an important step in the Nokia journey, it is just one step -- unless it takes off and blows away competitors."
Despite the challenges, the reasons for Nokia to make the effort are clear.
"In a world where Apple is running the world's largest music stores," said Cryan, "unless you have a music service, you don't look as compelling with your devices."
The other part of this equation is who pays for it, Cryan told the E-Commerce Times. "The cost is essentially concealed from consumers with it put into the cost of the device. From the music industry, it was the same as most of the music services. As a consumer, you don't actually see that price."
Nokia and Windows Phone 8
It's significant that this announcement comes just before the start of Nokia World 2012, where a slew of products are likely to be unveiled this week. Exactly what consumers should expect is still not known, but the event will likely focus heavily on Windows Phone 8, the new mobile OS from Microsoft.
"Nokia and Microsoft are always excited about these meetings," added Kagan. "There are always so many exciting news bits to discuss. Unfortunately, nothing ever happens after that."
This time could be different, though, because it really is a make-or-break time for both players.
"The companies are on the final approach for the Windows 8 launch," said Ian Fogg, senior principal analyst and head of the IHS mobile sector at IHS iSuppli. "This is an extremely big launch for both companies."
For Microsoft, this launch unifies the PC, the mobile phone, and tablet space, and this brings the PC version of Windows much closer to the smartphone platform than any previous mobile version, Fogg added. The stakes are even higher for Nokia.
"Nokia has struggled in the U.S. market for years," Fogg said. "This is really the last chance they have to revise their smartphone strategy."
Nokia and Microsoft not respond to our request for further details.