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World's biggest music streaming service launches - for tech idiots

There's a lot of them out there

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A new music streaming service launches today in 23 territories, the biggest launch so far. You're unlikely to want to sign up - it's aimed not at the tech-savvy user but at someone who has broadband but finds Spotify too complex.

That's a surprisingly large demographic, however, and given how much unpaid technical support time we give to non-tech users, it might figure on the recommendations list.

Rara.com was put together by Omnifone (and before that, Silicon.com) founder and current chairman Rob Lewis, and is backed by the platform. It's very graphical - featuring Cover Flow-style playlists and buttons that open stations for mood, genre or curated lists. There will be significant editorial input from in-house staff and artists including Imogen Heap.

In contrast to Spotify, there's no ad-supported portion, but you can sign up for 99 (US or Euro) cents a month, which goes up to $4.99 a month after three months. Offline and mobile access are $9.99 a month.

Analyst Mark Mulligan summed up the state of digital music services quite well in an introduction to the service.

"There's so much choice, but a lot of people have no choice at all. The 9.99 services are not getting anywhere because they target the same 1 per cent of the market. We're losing the mainstream for good," he concluded.

Lewis told us Rara.com had begun life as an internal research project at Omnifone some 18 months, for how Omnifone could create a radically simplified user interface for music. It was Omnifone's first real crack at the consumer market - it launched MusicStation in 2007, but through operators, and it powers Sony's cross-device music service too.

He said market research showed people were willing to pay, but were confused by services that were too technical or boring - "like looking at an Excel spreadsheet".

"The mass market doesn't know what caching means," said Lewis, indicating the kind of punter Rara is aimed at.

The question is how many of that mass market Rara can hope to convert. 48 per cent of people who've tried a streaming service cancel, with the user interface cited as the number one factor for pulling out. Perhaps Rara are in with a chance.

Or perhaps inertia will win the day and people will cling, barnacle-like, to the places they know. With Facebook delivering streaming music, and YouTube the world's default jukebox, the biggest rivals are already quite well established.

HP has agreed to bundle the service on their hardware. ®

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