Microsoft Corp. and Motorola Inc. on Monday said they are collaborating on a music handset, which would compete against a similar phone by Motorola that supports Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes music platform.
The Microsoft phone would support the Redmond, Wash., software maker's copyright protection software, as well as its Windows media platform, officials announced at the 3GSM World Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Motorola's Apple-supported ROKR and SLVR phones currently are available in the United States through Cingular Wireless. The Apple and Microsoft phones do not support each other's technologies.
Motorola's decision to support both platforms was not a surprise.
"It was our thinking all along that Motorola would not put all of its eggs in one basket," Chris Ambrosio, analyst for Strategy Analytics, said. "It makes sense to support as many platforms as they can."
Music downloaded from any one of a variety of services supporting Microsoft technology would be transferred to the Motorola handset from a PC via a USB 2.0 port. In addition, the two companies plan to include in the handsets technology tailored for discovering and acquiring music over a carrier's high-speed data network.
Motorola, based in Schaumburg, Ill., plans to start shipping multiple handsets with Microsoft's media technology in the second half of the year. Phones capable of downloading music from carriers' networks are expected next year.
Motorola is not the first to release a music phone. People in Europe and the United Kingdom, where high-speed wireless networks are more advanced than in the United States, have been able to download music through their carriers. The most advanced phones are available through Samsung, Sony Ericsson, O2 and Orange, according to Strategy Analytics.
In general, however, U.S. carriers have not pushed manufacturers hard for music handsets, because of the lack of a clear business model, experts say. But carriers believe there is significant revenue potential from music, given that research shows many people have a strong emotional tie to the songs they like.