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Motorola readies Windows Media music phone line-up

Apple relationship souring?

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Motorola is to produce a line of Windows Media Audio-based music phones, the company said this week, as an alternative to the iTunes-equipped handsets it already offers in partnership with Apple. The two product lines will remain separate, Motorola claimed.

Up to three WMA handsets are scheduled to ship in H2, Reuters reports.

It's hard not to see the move as a blow to the Apple partnership. Not that it's been what you'd call a perfect relationship. The two companies announced plans to co-operate in August 2004, saying the first iTunes-equipped phone would ship during the first half of 2005. In the end, the ROKR didn't debut until August 2005, and won immediate criticism not only for its lacklustre performance but the 100-song limit iTunes imposes on users.

Since then, Motorola has shipped the rather more impressive SLVR handset, the device the ROKR really should have been. But there's still no over-the-air song download mechanism, a mode of delivery that would find favour with network operators because they take a cut. According to Motorola, the WMA phones will support this operator-friendly feature.

The downside is the cost, and that's probably why Apple hasn't rushed to support the mode - it undoubtedly reckons, and reasonably too, that consumers aren't going to buy too many songs from the networks when they can get them more cheaply using a Mac or PC. The risk, however, is that it will get squeezed out of the phone market, though it may experience a change of heart should it become a virtual network operator as Apple is rumoured to be becoming. ®

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