DoCoMo, Microsoft team up on mobile music

DoCoMo adding support for the Windows Media DRM 10 system to its cell phones

NTT DoCoMo and Microsoft are working together to make cell phones compatible with the large number of online music stores that use Microsoft's technology, they said Thursday.

DoCoMo, which is Japan's leading cell phone operator, will begin adding support for the Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 system to its cell phones, starting with the F902iS handset that will go on sale in the middle of this year. DRM is used to protect downloaded songs from being copied and most online music stores use Microsoft's technology. Without DRM support the phones wouldn't be able to play tracks purchased online.

The deal between the two companies extends to DoCoMo's overseas partners in its I-mode alliance, which will consider the use of Windows Media DRM, DoCoMo said. There are around 5 million I-mode users in 14 countries: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, Greece, Israel, Russia, England, Ireland, and Singapore.

The deal comes as KDDI, DoCoMo's main competitor, is pushing its Lismo service, which lets users download songs to a cell phone and transfer them to a PC. Songs can also be transferred to other phones from the PC. The songs are protected using a DRM system and payment is made via the mobile phone bill.

In Japan, downloading music via cell phone is vastly more popular than through PC-based Internet services. In 2005, about 96 percent of the 268 million tracks purchased electronically were downloaded via mobile services, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

Related to Thursday's deal, DoCoMo said it will also consider adding Windows Media Video to future cell phone handsets.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.