Moto ROKR vs Nokia N91

Wired have posted a fascinating article covering the collaboration between Apple and Motorola which led to the Motorola ROKR and compare it to Nokia's hard-disk-based N91. They rightly heap scorn on the ROKR's UI decisions, the 100 song limit and Apple's Fairplay DRM scheme. In comparison the N91's 4GB hard disk, WiFi and a new Hungarian P2P app are all given positive coverage. The article asks the question: 'What should a music phone offer? The specs aren't hard to figure out. For starters, it should have clearly marked Pause and Play buttons so as not to trip up people like Steve Jobs. It should sync quickly and easily with your computer, and you should be able to use it to buy music at a reasonable price. It should play music from iTunes or any other music service. You should be able to choose different amounts of memory, and whatever you decide on, it shouldn't be constrained to 100 songs - or any other arbitrary limit.'

Some of the design decisions were explained: 'The Motorola team soon discovered that working with Apple means making compromises. A key part of the iTunes package, for example, is FairPlay, Apple's digital rights management software. Ostensibly, DRM exists to benefit the music companies, but it's an equally handy control mechanism for the tech outfits that develop it - companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Apple. FairPlay would set limits on the new phone: It couldn't play music from any major online store but iTunes. It couldn't hold more than 100 songs. "It's obvious why Apple is doing this," says Patrick Parodi, head of the Mobile Entertainment Forum, an industry trade group. "They don't want to cannibalize the iPod."'

The take on the P2P app was particularly interesting: 'He pushes a couple of buttons on the keypad. Up pops Symella, a new peer-to-peer downloading program from Hungary. As the name suggests, Symella is a Symbian application that runs on Gnutella, the P2P network that hosts desktop file-sharing apps like BearShare and Limewire. It was created earlier this year by two students at a Budapest engineering school that for four years has been exploring mobile P2P in conjunction with a local Nokia research center. Symella doesn't come installed on the N91; Vanjoki downloaded it from the university Web site. "Now I am connected to a number of peers," he continues, "and I can just go and search for music or any other files. If I find some music I like and it's 5 megabytes and I want to download it - the carriers will love this. It will give them a lot of traffic."'


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