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Over-the-air iTunes wouldn't choke O2

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Tech Digest Are over-the-air downloads to iTunes phones coming next? The networks might be keener on Apple going mobile with the service than you might think.

It was always assumed by UK mobile phone analysts that had Apple and Motorola offered direct over the air music downloads via iTunes to its newly launched ROKR music phone, that the UK networks wouldn’t have touched the thing. After all this would make iTunes a direct competitor to the network’s own music download options.

Vodafone, which isn't offering the phone, probably sees it this way but not other networks.

Speaking for O2, which has an exclusive on the phone for a couple of weeks, Head of Music Graeme Riddell told Tech Digest that this was never an issue.

"We took the phone because it fits in with our core plan and that is to get people using their mobile to listen to music. We acknowledge that it is a competitive market place out there and we have a strong offering and we would be able to offer services that iTunes couldn’t such as video downloads, ringtones, ticketing and community features."

Nevertheless were Apple to offer a mobile-friendly version of its iTunes music store, which surely has to be high on the company’s agenda, the UK networks' own services would find it hard to compete with a system that has already taken such a huge leap in PC-based music downloads.

Tellingly Riddell admitted that the networks would still benefit massively from the service "as consumers would be using our phone network to download the tracks."

Riddell also argued that it didn’t take long to decide to take the phone as it is "obviously a high profile phone and O2 wants to maintain its position as offering the widest and best range of handsets on the High Street."

Asked what he thought about the backlash against the phone - reviews haven’t been too kind so far - Riddell said that "consumer electronics is a very fast moving market" and he expected Motorola and Apple would offer better specified versions of the phone in the near future.

"Although Apple has done extremely well with its iPod," concluded Riddell. "There are still many more phones out there that can play MP3 than Apple music players."

There's loads more of this stuff at Tech Digest, Shiny Shiny, Green consumer blog HippyShopper and Bayraider, which highlights the best and worst of online auction sites.

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