Is over the air downloads to iTunes phones the real reason for the ROKR?:

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Is the real story about the ROKR phone that it is a precursor to Apple offering over the air music downloads via iTunes? Well maybe, and the interesting news is that the UK networks don’t seem as down on having iTunes as a rival to their music services as you might have thought.

It was always assumed by UK mobile phone analysts that had Apple and Motorola offered a direct over the air music downloads via iTunes to its newly launched ROKR music phone, that the UK networks wouldn’t have touched the phone. For after all this would make iTunes a direct competitor to the network’s own music download options. Vodafone, which isn’t offering the phone probably sees it this way but not other networks.

Speaking for O2, which has an exclusive on the phone for a couple of weeks, Head of Music Graeme Riddell told Tech Digest that this was never an issue. ‘We took the phone because it fits in with our core plan and that it is to get people using their mobile to listen to music. We acknowledge that it is a competitive market place out there and we have a strong offering and we would be able to offer services that iTunes couldn’t such as video downloads, ringtones, ticketing and community features.’ Nevertheless were Apple to offer a mobile-friendly version of its iTunes music store, which surely has to be high on the company’s agenda, the UK networks own services would find it hard to compete with a system that has already taken such a huge leap in PC-based music downloads. Tellingly Riddell admitted that the networks would still benefit massively from the service ‘as consumers would be using our phone network to download the tracks.’

Riddell also argued that it didn’t take long to decide to take the phone as it is ‘obviously a high profile phone and O2 wants to maintain its position as offering the widest and best range of handsets on the High Street.’ Asked what he thought about the backlash against the phone – reviews haven’t been too kind so far – Riddell said that ‘consumer electronics is a very fast moving market’ and he expected Motorola and Apple would offer better specified versions of the phone in the near future.’ ‘Although Apple has done extremely well with its iPod,’ concluded Riddell. ‘There are still many more phones out there that can play MP3 than Apple music players.’

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