By Lisa Johnston
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A music-streaming service launched for Windows Mobile-based smartphones and PDA-phones is going a step beyond the wireless music-streaming services offered by cellular carriers to let users stream files from their PCs.
The Mercora M subscription service, launched by a three-year-old music-streaming web site, lets subscribers select streams sorted by more than 700 genres and subgenres from a library of more than 3.5 million songs. In what appears to be another first for cellular, subscribers can also stream music files residing on their broadband-connected PC. Subscribers can also stream music files from up to five friends' PCs if those PCs are loaded with Mercora's PC application.
With the service, users can "simultaneously discover, enjoy, and share music, all directly through the mobile device," said Srivats Sampath, Mercora president/CEO.
Although Mercora streams music in more than 700 genres, business development director Avikk Ghose said the service effectively offers more than 100,000 channels of "radio-on-demand" because users can select "artist" stations. It works like this: When users select an artist name, the first track to play back is by the selected artist, but that track will be followed by songs from artists who perform similar music. The channel will serve up to four songs from the selected artist within three hours in accordance with limits imposed by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Ghose emphasized that unlike truly interactive streaming services, users can't select particular songs for playback from Mercora's servers, although they can choose particular songs residing on their PC or friends' PCs.
Mercora's library includes songs from the big four labels and independents. The subscription price is $4.99/month. A one-year subscription is $49.99.
Mercora M client software for PDA-phones must be based on the Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone edition platform, while for smartphones software must be based on the Windows Mobile smartphone edition platform, which is included free with a subscription.
Free desktop software lets subscribers stream MP3, WMA and Ogg Vorbis music files from a PC to the cellphone.
The desktop application transcodes MP3 and WMA files to Ogg Vorbis format for over-the-air streaming to the cellphone. Ogg Vorbis, Ghose said, is a more efficient codec for cellular streaming, pointing out that a 56kbps Ogg Vorbois stream delivers the quality of a 190kbps MP3 stream.
The free desktop software can also be used to access Mercora's home-PC broadband streaming service,
Mercora M service is optimized for a broad range of Windows Mobile 5.0-certified smartphones and Pocket PC phones from manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, Palm, HP, i-mate, Asus, Audiovox, HTC, Siemens, Sierra Wireless and UTStarcom, the company said.
The service works best over high-speed wireless-data networks incorporating EDGE, EV-DO and W-CDMA cellular data technologies, but it can also work over Wi-Fi hot spots and future WiMax wireless networks.
Mercora M software for PCs and Windows Mobile phones is available at more than 350 Web sites powered by Handango, MobiHand, Mobile & Wireless Group, and Motricity.
The software is available online at sites branded by Alltel, Amazon AOL, BET, CBS, Cingular Wireless, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Motorola, NBC, Palm, Samsung, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Turner Broadcasting and Verizon Wireless. Other authorized Web sites include everythingQ, everythingTreo, eXpansys, Handango, Mobile2Day, MobilePlanet, MotoSmartZone, PalmGear, PocketGear, Qusers, and Smartphone.net.
The mobile device software offers a My Favorites section with simple, one-click access to favorite artists, genres, and styles. Plans call for over-the-air access to PC-stored podcasts organized by title, date, and other information, when Mercora M desktop software is used.
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