MSN Mobile Music timidly tests the English Channel with DRM

MSN Mobile Music, a browser-based music shop designed for mobile handsets and completely unrelated to Zune marketplace was formally launched in the UK this week. Microsoft may have taken a step backward by protecting downloads with DRM.

The store is run by VidZone Digital Media and features .WMA downloads, ringtones, and video content from three of the "big four" major labels (Universal Music Group is not yet in.) Single songs cost £1.50, videos cost £2 and ringtones go for £3.

Since it is browser-based, the store is accessible to non-Windows Mobile devices, but the questions raised are three: why under the "MSN" name, why DRM, and why more expensive than competitors?

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In a question and answer session with PC Pro, Microsoft UK's Mobile Director Hugh Griffiths, formerly of mobile carrier O2, rather candidly addressed the primary concern of DRM.

Calling it a first step, Griffiths said, "At the moment, to be honest with you, we don't have the functionality in-house to provide a mechanism for transferring between mobile phones and PC. We don't have that functionality available."

As far as the MSN branding goes, Griffiths said the portal has almost a million users a month, and that "a whole bunch" are accessing the site on their mobile phone.

The attitude of the whole thing is very experimental, as Griffiths stressed that it will change according to user feedback and behavior. Price, also, could change depending on if Microsoft UK feels it is a detriment.

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