Bluetooth File Sharing IS Happening

One of the issues I’ve been banging about for the last three years is that kids are using Bluetooth to share music and ringtones. This has been met with widespread scepticism among ye of little faith.

New research commissioned by our friends at New Media Age released today shows that the tsunami I was talking about is actually here. 29% of children aged between 9 and 13 share files this way and I’m very sure it’s even higher among their older brothers and sisters.

One of the big issues with Bluetooth sharing is that it’s untraceable as it by-passes the operator network. This is a double whammy for operators as they still sell a lot of content and they don’t get the data traffic. In fact, given operators’ traditional reluctance to cannabilise revenues, it’s pretty amazing that they let Bluetooth creep in to handsets at all. After all, they’re resisting wifi enabled handsets (to prevent VoIP calls and loss of data traffic) and were very slow to embrace IM in case it cannibalised SMS revenues – my opinion is that it won’t by the way, but that’s a subject for another post.

The research also confirms another of my little theories – that many kids are using the mobile to listen to music. In fact 30% use their mobile as their main device for this. I quoted Nokia a few weeks back who were claiming that about two thirds of people used their phone for playing music and several people scoffed at me for believing them – you know who you are :-). Bearing in mind that this research was talking about using the phone as the main music consumption device and Nokia’s claim was in reference to people ever using it like that, I think that they’re roughly in the same ballpark. The figures would be much nearer if applied to teens, not tweens, as well.

So what’s going to happen next? Well, lots of people from the music industry and telecoms are going to go and panic and especially try to apply DRM solutions to prevent people from doing this. Like any DRM solution it won’t work or stop the problem – just cost the initiators a lot of money. I’m betting at least one operator will disable Bluetooth or at least pressure the handset manufacturers to leave it out of their specs for the handsets they supply. And I’m sure we’ll see a few more lawsuits, as the music industry just can’t resist suing their customers, whether they’re kids or grannies.

Finally, reason will prevail and a solution will present itself – Ad-funded or Ad-subsidised content. We could save a lot of time and energy if we reached this conclusion now. Adopt your business model to the prevalent market conditions, don’t go into denial. After all, once the PC came along, would you carry on making typewriters?

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