Nokia, Microsoft shake hands on mobile music

Longtime rivals announce an agreement to help transfer music between mobile devices and PCs.

Nokia on Monday announced a long-term agreement to use longtime rival Microsoft's technology to help transfer music between cell phones and computers.

At the ongoing 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, Microsoft and Nokia said they plan to collaborate to help wireless customers use a service debuted by Nokia and digital-media specialist Loudeye. Nokia, in turn, will support Microsoft's Windows Media Audio, Windows Media Digital Rights Management and Media Transfer Protocol software in its handsets.

The Finnish cell phone maker also will support digital rights management tools developed by the Open Mobile Alliance industry group, as well as MPEG Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) technology in Windows Media Player through plug-in applications.

In addition, Nokia plans to use Microsoft's Exchange Server ActiveSync technology to help provide synchronization between the software giant's server software and future mobile devices. Terms of the licensing agreement were not disclosed.

The announcement highlights a growing trend of cell phone companies trying to turn handsets into MP3 players like Apple Computer's iPod. Mobile-service providers are increasingly eyeing music as a new source of revenue. For instance, Motorola recently signed up with Apple to develop cell phones with built-in iTunes software. Handsets carrying such features are likely to be available sometime in the first half of this year.

The companies said the deal will help give consumers a wider range of digital-music software alternatives.

"Microsoft and Nokia recognize that interoperability and ease of use are crucial to delivering a seamless consumer experience and enabling digital music to be enjoyed on the move," Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the Windows Digital Media division at Microsoft, said in a statement. "This agreement marks the beginning of a collaborative effort that will greatly enhance the mobile phone as a personal music device."

Nokia said collaboration between the two companies on the ActiveSync protocol will allow it to better synchronize between mobile devices running its Series 60 and Series 80 software, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, which offers applications such as e-mail, calendar information and contacts.

At the same conference, Nokia and Loudeye took the wraps off their previously announced mobile-music technology for wireless-service operators. The partners said the software package will help service providers build music and ring tone offerings that work with mobile devices and PCs. The software is based on Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

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