Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson said on Tuesday that it would launch a new service on its phones that would allow full music downloading, initially focusing on new and up-and-coming artists.
Mobile phone makers have been integrating music players into their handsets, part of a threat to Apple's iPod. Sony Ericsson has christened its new service M-BUZZ. It will use an enhanced version of its PlayNow service and the Internet.
The first phones offering M-BUZZ will be the W850 and W950 Walkman phones announced earlier this year and scheduled to ship in European, Asian and Latin American markets during the second half of 2006, Sony Ericsson said in a statement.
The company, half owned by Sony Corp and half by Ericsson, said it would initially offer a limited number of artists and bands each month, picked from Sony/ATV Music Publishing's roster.
It will initially offer content for download to the phone, with new commercial aspects being developed later as additional features are incorporated in the M-BUZZ space, it added.
Strategy Analytics has said that close to 100 million phones sold this year will have a built-in music player and that number will grow to almost 800 million units by 2010.
That compares with 8.11 million iPods sold in the April-June quarter, up 32 percent from a year earlier but down from 8.5 million in the January-March quarter.
Handset makers see digital music as one of the key drivers for selling more expensive new phones, as they try to hold up their average selling prices despite surging demand for cheap phones in emerging markets.
Nokia, the world's largest handset maker, said at the start of August that it was buying U.S.-based digital music distributor Loudeye Corp. for $60 million.
Sony Ericsson's current PlayNow facility allows users to hear a clip of a ringtone and then purchase it.