I’ve been playing around with the web-based version of¬†Mercora in the last few days, on the run up to the launch today on Windows Mobile and Pocket PCs, which turns these devices into streaming music players.
I don’t have a Windows Mobile device, so haven’t been able to test this on my phone, but would love to hear from any readers who can. (Or if some kind person feels like giving me and Carlo one to play with, that would be nice!).
While I’m very sure that¬†playing¬†music is¬†going to be the next victim of the mobile category killer¬†adding¬†to its domination of pagers, PDAs and¬†cameras (not to mention calculators and watches), there’s two ways this could happen.
Firstly, we have the iPod download-and-store approach where you carry your music around with you. This has the advantage of instant replay and in these days of massive storage within tiny packages, it truly is possible to carry all but the most mega-huge collections around.
But then we have the option where the music is stored on the network and streamed for consumption on whatever device you happen to want to listen to. This could be your specialist device, mobile, friend’s mobile, airline seat or your computer. Assuming that connection speeds are fast enough and reliable enough (a reasonable assumption in the immediate future), maybe the flexibility of thin client and streaming is the way to go. For what it’s worth, this is certainly what the likes of Google¬†are betting on, so let’s not dismiss the thin-client strategy, by any means.
Mercora have certainly invested their future in streaming, but before coming on to the mobile element, let’s quickly give a run down of their core product.
Mercora¬†was started in 2003 and has quietly built a user base of over 1 million music fans worldwide. It’s a kind of social networking meets radio, where users can choose to listen to music by genre, artist or¬†listen to other people’s record collections, plus chat and form friendships with people whose music you like. You can also play Mr DJ yourself by uploading your record collection for others to listen to.
This a great for music discovery, as the chances of sharing someone’s taste in music has got to be significantly higher than an automated recommendation engine.
All this gives listeners access to a collection far larger than most of us can ever envisage and also much bigger than you can cram into even the largest MP3 player. Anyone listening to this form of digital radio has access to over 100,000 artist channels alone, or thinking of it another way, 1,000 genre or style channels.
So far,¬†it’s pretty similar, in principle at least,¬†to Last FM, which I’ve been using for a while now and really like. Mercora¬†is certainly its equal and I’ll be using the web based service.
But the big news is that all this is now available on a mobile, assuming you have Windows Mobile and I assume (I have no inside knowledge here), soon Symbian and maybe Linux¬†will follow. You can also use the mobile to access biog data of artists you’re listening to and pictures, which would be quite cool, as well as all the familar features on the web.
So far so good – how much does this little lot cost on mobile? It’s not so bad actually, with a full year costing $49.99, certainly when you consider that¬†this gives you virtually unlimited music choice on your mobile phone. So provided Mercora can get over the hump of getting people to pay anything, it’s very good value – it’s less than the price of two ringtones a month.
The mobile version of Mercora is¬†free until the end of October though, so give it a try. The web version is free anyway.