Portable Music Management

Weak Signal

A weak signal is a sign which is slight in present dimensions but huge in terms of its virtual consequences (Pierre Masse 1965)

Portable Music Management Paradigm

Author : Ian Hay

Team : T&I SA

Contact : ian.hay@orange.co.uk +44 7976 355070

Date : Thursday, 12 May 2005


The weak signal identified in this paper is that there is a massive opportunity for
Orange to create a new paradigm in the management and consumption of digital music.

If this is acted upon it will ultimately give the mobile phone a compelling and winning reason to be the device of choice when consuming digital music on the move.

The reason I propose this as a ‘weak signal’ is that there are slight indications that there may some thought along these lines from device manufacturers and application vendors, however the key point is that they are still simply trying to improve the control of the PC over the portable device when it comes to managing music.

It is key to stress that this paper covers a complete shift in current thinking and if correct and actioned upon in a timely manner could give
Orange a significant revenue generation and customer acquisition tool as part of it’s music offering that will differentiate us from the likes of Vodafone and O2


In order to understand why consider the current market and usage paradigm:

· The growth in digital music and portable consumption devices is taking off at a phenomenal rate with sales in the millions, still this is dwarfed by the sales of mobile phones.

· Several mobile music services have launched recently but are limited to small catalogues, reduced quality (for storage and delivery reasons) and limited to no real management capabilities

· Consumers digital collections are set to grow exponentially as the mass market adoption of digital music increases, legal or otherwise

· PC based storage costs are lower than ever with standard PC’s being supplied with over 100GB disks allowing people to store more

· Mainstream popular PC media players are expanding their ability to manage collections of music on portable devices, primarily around non mobile devices such as iPod, Creative Zen and several hundred other players

· Microsoft has developed a new protocol to aid in this (MTP) and has included mobile phone extensions to it in a bid to control this space and encourage users to use Windows Media Audio and MSN Music store

· The currently accepted practice is to use the PC to manage collections on devices by means of playlists that are either automagically created by usage data or in most cases manually by the user when back at the PC

· Ultimately the relationship is currently that the PC is the master and the portable device is the slave

However as people increasingly use music on the move problems begin, mainly remembering what you felt compelled to do when actually listening to the music when you get back to the PC, there are some early attempts at solving this with features like the ‘on-the-go’ playlist of the iPod and the manual rating system of each track so that this data can be used in a ‘smart’ playlist on the PC.

These attempts fall short of how music will need to be managed in the future.


It is my firm belief based on my own extensive use fo digital media and discussions with like minded peers that this situation needs to change in order to make it more lifestyle friendly and customer focused. The portable device needs to become the master and revert the PC to the slave which holds all the stored music and supplies what it is told to by the portable device.

In order to reverse this paradigm it will be necessary to take a revolutionary approach to music client software on the mobile phone, the current approach is to add 4 simple buttons to the device to replicate basic features of portable media players (Play, Stop, Next, Previous) or to go completely the other way with the likes of the iPod Shuffle and remove virtually all control other than random playback.

The main features required in a first step towards this are:

· I like this track/artist, put more on device at next sync

· I hate this track/artist, remove all tracks like this at next sync

· I am tired of this track/artist, remove at next sync

· I like this track/artist so much never remove

This can be realised in a simple UI but will provide a unique way of controlling the contents of a portable device from the device itself rather than trying to remember what you were enjoying (or not) as music is consumed during the day.

The current inputs on mobile devices are more than capable of achieving this UI using as little as two buttons and soft menus built into the client. This point is critical because the ability to build these functions into a headset/remote will further enhance the appeal as people increasingly put the devices in pockets and use headphones, Nokia recently announced such a headset but with only the limited and usual playback controls but the addition of a small LCD display is innovative and a step in the right direction.


The time for this initiative is now, FT is developing a Music Download Application that is modeilling itself on the current paradigm which makes it a me too product that will struggle to capture market share in a crowded digital music market place


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