Nokia launched its Music Store in Singapore today. I got the news through a press release in my emailbox, so I thought I'd check it out. It's always fun to check out new digital initiatives in Singapore, particularly in this case, especially since the juggernaut, Apple's iTunes Store, has yet to even appear on the radar.
Alas, my enthusiasm evaporated when I saw this roadblock:
Oh my stars and garters! Nokia banned me from entering because I don't use a "supported" browser! Nightmares of the 1990s flooded my mind, you know, that period during the browser wars when websites would only work with one browser or another.
Fortunately, I had access to a Windows computer, so I fired up Firefox and loaded the Music Store... oh, silly me, it works only with Internet Explorer. Fine, I'll do what it takes. As Britney Spears sang, I'm a slave for you...
But then, curiosity kills the cat, right? As a consumer, one of the first things I noticed, besides the user interface and featured songs, was the price. Nokia charged $2 per song download. That sounded about reasonable, since Apple charges US$0.99. But $2 is actually a wee bit pricey in Singapore, where an average CD costs less than $20 -- and it contains more than 10 songs! And there's artwork and DRM-free music too.
Ah, digital rights management (DRM), that was another sticking point. The Music Store relies on Microsoft's DRM service through its Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. Since my primary computer is a Mac, WMA would be useless to me. I won't get into an argument here about whether WMA is crap compared to AAC. To a non-audiophile like me, both have sound qualities that are similarly good. So, suffice to say that with its reliance on WMA, I would be even more hard-pressed to justify buying music from Nokia.
So I guess that's it: no Nokia Music Store for me. In baseball parlance, that's three strikes, i.e.
- It can only be accessed through Internet Explorer on Windows computers.
- Each song costs $2.
- It uses WMA for its music format.
Now, when I contemplate browsing your music catalogue -- and maybe even making a purchase or two if I find those hidden gems, you whack me upside-down with this silly error. Thank goodness, you're still in "beta" version... though I wonder why you'd announce with great fanfare like it's the real thing. Oh, you're treating your users as guinea pigs? Hmm, sounds familiar in the mobile phone industry.
Oh, and with the Music Store launch, I wonder if Nokia will bring its "Comes with Music" program to Singapore. You know, that harebrained idea of giving your customers free lifetime music with every new phone purchase that is likely to bankrupt your company.