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iLoad to link iPod Nano to mobile phone music stores

DRM difficulties to overcome first

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We're not quite sure why you'd want to download tracks to your iPod Nano from an expensive mobile phone operator-run music store rather than the cheaper, iPod-friendly iTunes Music Store, but US start-up Wingspan Investment Partners says it will let you do so this Summer for a mere $199.

Its iLoad-c will fit onto the back of a Nano and connect the device to music stores run by Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, Cingular and T-Mobile, ready to buy and download songs over the air - with the extra GPRS usage levy that implies. It's a novel idea, and one that makes almost instant musical gratification a possibility. Wingspan's iLoad-c mock-up implies the device has its own screen and controls which interface with the music stores.

How the company proposes to get past the services' DRM remains to be seen. Cingular's mMode Music Store, for example, uses Windows' WMA format, so the iLoad-c will have to convert the music content into AAC format, and WMA's DRM instructions into their FairPlay equivalents before transferring the track to the Nano.

A potential infringement of the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act? Possibly, but Apple's reluctance to sue RealNetworks for employing a similar DRM-translation approach suggests not.

Wingspan also alluded this week to the iLoad-c's Wi-Fi support, which could, with a little ITMS reverse engineering, allow the device to tap into the Apple music store directly, saving the company the need to do all the DRM handling. Of course, that limits iLoad-c's applicability to home WLANs and Wi-Fi hotspots.

So far, all Wingspan has on the iLoad website is some graphical mock-ups and a Flash animation showing how the system might work. We look forward to seeing the device in the flesh this summer. ®

wingspan iload-c ipod nano music source

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