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Nokia puts music phone on hold

Won't let the bells ring out for Christmas

Nokia is delaying the introduction of the N91, its mobile phone that can store as many as 3,000 songs, missing the end-of-year shopping season.

"We've decided to move the introduction to the first quarter as we have been able to accelerate the deployment of Windows [digital rights management] into the device," said Kari Tuutti, a spokesman for Nokia. Windows Media DRM (digital rights management) is a platform that allows music vendors to control how PC, music player or mobile phone users listen to music and other protected digital content they download.

Nokia had originally planned to launch the N91 for the Christmas season with DRM software from the OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), upgrading to the Windows DRM next year. The company instead accelerated the inclusion of Windows DRM into the device but won't now be able to complete that process until the first quarter, Tuutti said.

Windows DRM software is important to Nokia because it allows users to download music from more stores than OMA allows, he said. More than 50 percent of online music stores are compatible with Windows DRM, he said.

Nokia has lost the chance to use the N91 to compete during the Christmas season against other handset makers that are featuring music players in their products. Most notably, Motorola recently introduced a phone that includes a player for music purchased from the popular iTunes Music Store.

Nokia thinks it's worth the wait. "The Christmas season is important but if you look at what is the status of the music entering mobile phones, it's still very early days," Tuutti said. "We wanted to make sure the first experience is positive so we don't bring a disappointment to first buyers. In that sense, the long-term trend is more important than a month or two of sales."

Pushing back the timeline in a quest to deliver a better product isn't a bad decision, said Rob Bamforth, a principal analyst with Quocirca. "Getting the DRM stuff right is vital for usability," he said. "So delaying it… is a good thing."

Nokia has several other phones that include the capability to play music and has sold 40 million such phones this year, said Tuutti. "But the N91 is the first where we really fine-tuned this end-to-end experience and have optimised the device with a huge mass storage capability," he said.

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