updated 07:40 am EST, Mon January 17, 2011
Nokia to drop Comes With Music in most countries
Nokia on Monday faced a symbolic embarrassment in its media strategy as it said it would drop Ovi Music Unlimited in 27 of its 33 countries. The bundled music plan, originally known as Comes With Music, will disappear from the UK and most of its major countries once subscriptions run out. The company wouldn't fully elaborate on what triggered the shutdown but partly blamed it on the Windows Media copy protection labels wanted for the service to work.
"The markets clearly want a DRM-free music service," a spokesman told Reuters. Ovi Music Unlimited is DRM-free in China, and Nokia's pay-per-track Ovi Music store is DRM free in the 38 countries it serves.
Six-month subscription plans will survive in Brazil, South Africa and Turkey, while year-long subscriptions will persist in China, India and Indonesia.
The service was originally the brainchild of Universal Music Group, which saw it as a variant on its Total Music initiative at a time when it was convinced it could develop an alternative to iTunes. Phone buyers would pay a premium and get as much as a year's worth of unlimited downloads that they could then keep even if they didn't renew the plan. Universal had hoped to effectively make music purchases guaranteed by having customers pay for music before they'd even downloaded a song.
Nokia would never publicly acknowledge how many users it had, but its flagship UK release had just 107,227 users after its first year. The copy protection was blamed as factor since it often trapped use of the music to the phone or to certain apps on Windows PCs, preventing users from putting the music on their iPods or their own choices of apps.
Critics also pointed out problems with the business model itself. The price premium reduced the incentive to buy phones. Nokia also consciously kept Ovi Music Unlimited away from its best phones, reserving it for mid-range or low-end phones that wouldn't sell as well. Many customers also didn't understand how the pricing would work and either thought it was a mandatory recurring subscription or that the music might disappear after a year's time.
The device mix may have been ill-timed, as it came in the midst of a shift to smartphones that hurt Nokia's market share. Many music enthusiasts have steered specifically to the iPhone for the iTunes integration and more advanced music ecosystem.