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Nokia Comes With... 23,000 users

Slow start for unlimited music package

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Despite saturation advertising, Nokia's Comes With Music bundle has attracted just 23,000 users in the UK, according to music consultancy MusicAlly.

Nokia hasn't commented on the claim, but says it's satisfied with the roll out so far globally. In Singapore, Nokia said last week, CWM has increased digital download sales by around 30 per cent. However in Singapore, the offer has been bundled from the start with a phone designed to appeal to the affluent, fashion conscious Hi-So set. In the UK, it kicked off with a phone that was more than year old (the 2G Nokia 5310) - and that set you back over a hundred quid. The N95 8GB, and touchscreen 5800, only followed some time later. Only last month, Nokia expanded the range with two decent-looking music handsets.

"Consumers are voting with their wallets and going for high-quality MP3 rather than the DRM-crippled tracks that the Nokia service offers," said 7Digital's CEO Ben Drury. "Why would you download music in a format that is so restrictive, when you can get the same music in a universal format that can be played and shared across any music enabled device?"

Um. Because it's free?

Being charitable to Nokia, CWM is a concept that needs a bit of selling. No other hardware manufacturer bundles unlimited music with hardware, let alone allows you to keep it after the subscription expires. Nokia seems to have anticipated this in its advertising, stressing that there were no hidden costs or too many strings attached. (Apart from the DRM, of course. ).

Music business scouts who went undercover in Carphone Warehouse before Christmas, told us the staff had little idea what the proposition was - leaving them unable to make a convincing sales pitch.

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. If, as Nokia claims, the average CWM subscriber downloads 300 tracks, then it potentially leaves the company seriously out of pocket. Nokia has to pay Universal full whack for every song downloaded over a low monthly ceiling. That's around 60p a time, or potentially £200 per user. Is this wise?

No doubt Nokia is into music for the long run, and no doubt, too, it has some catching up to do with the iPod. But the steepest economic crash since the 1930s may not be the best time to be dabbling with Chris Anderson's freeconomics mantra. He's regarded as something of a guru round there. Maybe Nokia handsets - which are really OK as music players - don't need it. ®

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