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Q&A: Microsoft defends return to DRM

By Barry Collins

Posted on 22 Jan 2009 at 15:52


Microsoft yesterday unveiled its MSN Mobile Music service - and a surprise return to digital rights management (DRM).

While companies such as Apple and Amazon have finally moved to music download services free of copy protection, MSN Mobile locks tracks to the mobile handset they are downloaded to.

So why is Microsoft swimming against the tide of public opinion and the music industry with MSN Mobile? We spoke to Hugh Griffiths, Head of Mobile at Microsoft UK to find out.

Why has Microsoft gone back to DRM when the vast majority of music services have ditched it?

It's a first step. We're doing this in conjunction with a third-party provider. We'll be looking to enhance the service if we get some interest from consumers. They certainly tell us that they like listening to music while they are out and about, on their mobile phones.

At the moment, to be honest with you, we don't have the functionality in-house to provide a mechanism for transferring between mobile phones and PC. We don't have that functionality available.

With the likes of iTunes and Amazon offering DRM-free music that you can play on any device, why would anyone choose the MSN Mobile service?

There may well be people who just want to listen to the track on their mobile alone.

They can do that with iTunes and Amazon.

We will see what the outcome of this is. We'll see whether customers find it an acceptable proposition or not. We've been encouraged by the results in the first couple of weeks. It's ultimately down to consumer choice. We'd like to have offered a fuller service, we weren't in a position to do so for a number of reasons.

What is your message to consumers - why should I come to you instead of Amazon or iTunes? What do you offer that none of your competitors do?

There's a whole bunch of people who are very loyal to MSN on the web and there's now almost a million users of MSN Mobile every month, within the space of 12 months of it being launched.

So there's a whole bunch of people who are using MSN on their mobile phone for a whole variety of reasons. And we're saying to them, if you want to download music, it's available here. If you don't, that's fine.

It's a consumer's choice and they will decide if they're happy with the MSN Music service or if they want to go somewhere else.

The fee for downloading tracks - £1.50 - is relatively high compared to 79p on iTunes and less than that on certain Amazon tracks. Why is that?

We're constantly reviewing our pricing and if we feel this price point is incorrect, we'll look to amend it.

If I buy these songs on your service - and they're locked to my phone - what happens when I upgrade my phone in six months' time?

Well, I think you know the answer to that.

Can you really expect people to buy music that's locked to a device they upgrade every 12 to 18 months?

I didn't realise phones were churning that quickly in the marketplace these days. I'm sure there are some users who change their phone every year. This is an introduction - it's a toe in the water for MSN Mobile and we'll see how the service develops and we'll keep a very close eye on it, and we'll look to amend and change it as necessary as time progresses.

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User comments

This will create a revolution in the music industry.
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By shilpa on 3 Mar 2010

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