updated 07:20 pm EST, Sun February 11, 2007
Omnifone iTunes Rival
The young British firm Omnifone opened the 3GSM expo in Barcelona tonight with MusicStation, a software and service combination the newcomer hopes can directly challenge both iTunes and its connection to the iPhone. Central to the design is a consciously iPod-influenced jukebox program, the company said. Installing on top of any Java or Symbian phone, regardless of carrier, the software is built to recreate the experience of both a dedicated portable music player as well as an online store. The extra layer will give an iPhone-like experience without the absolute need for a computer, Omnifone claimed.
The platform also differs from most phone-based music stores by relying solely on a weekly subscription model that adapts to the user's tastes. In addition to offering unlimited downloads in a protected eAAC+ format, MusicStation said the service will automatically recommend concerts, music, and news based on listening habits. Social networking with friend, song rankings, and shared playlists will also be part of the standard service, which has music from all the major labels as well as independents.
Using Omnifone's service will require a supported cellphone with either a 2.5G or 3G Internet connection (such as EDGE or HSDPA) to download tracks, with pricing set at £1.99 ($3.88 US) per week for complete access on a cellphone; a separate plan will also let the same songs transfer directly to a Mac or PC for £2.99 ($4.49). A launch is scheduled for Spring in the initial markets of South Africa and Sweden, but should follow suit in much of Europe during the Summer. Releases in Asia and Australasia are also planned. The goal is ultimately to entrench the service in advance of Apple's new handset.
"We will ensure the vast majority of Europeans have the freedom to choose MusicStation by the time iPhone arrives in Europe," company CEO Rob Lewis bragged. "We will give consumers the choice they deserve."