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Wippit offers pay-by-SMS digital music downloads

'Killer app' to end youngsters' Kazaa craze?

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UK-based digital music company Wippit today launched its Apple iTunes Music Store-style song download service, introducing a mobile phone text message payment scheme in a bid to attract teenagers to the site.

"We're ahead in addressing the younger market with our SMS billing solution, a real incentive for kids without credit or debit cards not to download music illegally," said Wippit CEO Paul Myers. "It could be our 'killer app'."

Making it easy for youngsters to buy song downloads could be crucial in tackling online piracy. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) last week released statistics which indicate the 12-19 age group comprises the most active of music downloaders, with the vast majority currently using unlicensed services like Kazaa.

All other licensed music download stores focus on an older, more affluent market - one, crucially, with access to credit cards. Wippit offers that form of payment too.

The SMS payment systems is currently only available to UK customers, though the download service is open for business in the US, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Wippit pledged to bring it to those territories too.

Wippit offers some 150,000 songs thanks to the recent addition of content from major recording companies BMG and EMI. The company hinted at the upcoming addition of songs from a third major label, but declined to name it. Tracks are offered in WMA format, though a number are available in MP3.

Wippit's P2P-based download-all-you-want subscription service will continue to operate alongside but separate from the new Web-based download store. The company also said today that it was raising the annual subscription fee from £30/$50/€45 to £50/$90/€75 to "reflect the additional quality content that is being made available". Or, more likely, the higher licensing fees. Ahem.

The 29p song pricing is limited to discounted songs - the "standard" rate is 49p/€0.69/$0.79, but all the (admittedly from chart acts and well-known bands) songs we looked up were offered at Wippit's "premium" rate of 79p/€1.19/$1.29.

Wippit is also widening its offering, providing software downloads alongside the songs, with initial titles filed under music, video, entertainment, games and creative categories. It's a concept the Apple has discussed but has yet to implement, and it's not hard to imagine Wippit using the same system to offer other digital media in download form, such as movies. ®

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