Mobile phones a major player at Cannes fair

25th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, Jan 25 (AFP) - After taking the photographic world by storm, mobile phones are set to revolutionise how we listen to and enjoy music on the move.

CANNES, France, Jan 25 (AFP) - After taking the photographic world by storm, mobile phones are set to revolutionise how we listen to and enjoy music on the move.

With today's latest models, users can download whole music tracks, enjoy video clips and games and even keep up with news and sports highlights.

The potentially huge money-making mobile opportunities are likely to gladden the hearts of officials from the world's struggling music industry, who are gathered here for the annual MIDEM music trade fair that ends Thursday.

Album sales have crashed in the last few years in the face of rampant illegal music downloads.

But record labels and artists are pinning hope on the increasing popularity of online digital music stores and the bright future that the mobile phone industry promises to deliver. A major plus for the music business is that mobile phone customers are used to paying for services.

"There are only three things that people always carry with them: their wallet, their keys and their mobile phone," Guy Laurence senior marketing executive at the world's biggest mobile operator Vodafone told a packed conference hall here.

Customers want music "wherever and whenever they are and when they want to buy it, they want to do that instantly," Laurence added.

Mobiles are already a big money earner for some in the music industry and a boon in particular for the smaller independent labels. "Ring tones are a multi-billion dollar business," another speaker, music giant EMI's Ted Cohen emphasised.

But ring tones, fuelled by a desire to personalise one's phone, could be just the tip of the iceberg if the mobile and music industries get their act together, industry experts believe.

Leading the revolution are the technically superior 3G handsets and phone networks that are starting to be spread around the world.

Technologically-savvy Asia is leading the way but the market is starting to take off in Europe and will be rolled out in Australia and New Zealand shortly.

Vodafone predicted here that it will have 10 million 3G customers by March 2006. Helping the introduction of the new generation phones is the fact that people change phones every 15 to 18 months, Vodafone's Laurence said.

Industry exports underlined that cost will be key to determining the speed of 3G uptake. But costs seem to coming down and one expert here pointed out that in Germany 3G handsets are being sold for just EUR 1.

Phone operators are also wooing clients through special promotions, such as Vodafone's EUR 40 (USD 52) per month 3G subscription.

Costs vary hugely between countries, with Britain being at the high-end. In France, for example, phone operator Bouygues is hoping to increase its customer base by offering video-gamers the chance to download and play 29 of the hottest games for just EUR 3 a month.

Mobile phone users' biggest favourites for the moment continue to be ring tones. But real tones that offer stereo, CD-like quality sound look set to catch on fast. "The real tone business is really taking off," Germany T-mobile's Graham Thomas told conference participants here.

Another big plus for artists is that "one out of 10 people who buy a real tone, buy the full track download," Bathsheba Malsheen of US company Chaoticom told AFP. "And it is still very early days," she added.

New 3Gphones can hold up to 500 tracks, which Vodafone's Laurence believes is "plenty enough" for most consumers.

Such storage power is similar to that of the smaller, cheaper iPods that are just coming on the market. And the industry promises consumers there will be no incompatibility problems such as those that dog iPod users who can only download music from iTunes or from an Apple computer.

The new mobile phone services also make it easier for fans to find the music they want thanks to the ring tone charts that are just launching, as well as song recommendation lists.

They even have voice recognition. That means the phone can tell a fan what song or track is playing on the radio or elsewhere if it hears the sound source.

But for the moment, mobile phone users in most countries are not able to share their downloaded music, games or video clips with friends. Nor is it possible to download them to their PCs.

The mobile phone bigwigs, however, are setting their sites high. They're hoping that one day the mobile will take over from the hi-fi, radio and even computer P2P file sharing.


Subject: French News

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