According to a report in Forbes, phone giant Nokia has delayed the U.S. launch of its Comes With Music service until 2010.
Nokia first announced Comes With Music back in December 2007, then revealed more details almost a year later as the service launched in the U.K. Under the plan, cell phone buyers pay some extra money up front and, in exchange, get the right to download as many songs as they want from Nokia's music store for one year. Those downloads don't expire when the user's cell phone contract ends, but they are copy-protected, limiting usage to the phone and one computer that's registered with the service. Still, it seemed like a reasonable deal if Nokia could convince cellular carriers to subsidize some of the cost, and early reviews from the U.K. were mostly positive. I even suggested that Microsoft follow Nokia's lead whenever it launches its next-generation consumer-focused smartphones.
I thought the launch of the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music phone in the U.S. would be accompanied by the launch of the service in the U.S. as well, but it wasn't. So what's the problem? My guess is that Nokia's facing the same licensing economics that are limiting free download service Spotify to the European market only. Nokia may also be waiting for a more fundamental transition: the company has said that it's considering removing digital rights management limits from future iterations of the service, allowing the downloads to be played and shared between an unlimited number of devices. (In fact, the Comes With Music DRM scheme was bypassed almost immediately, proving for the umpteenth time that the concept is flawed.) It's only a matter of time: three years ago, nobody envisioned the content owners abandoning DRM on single-song downloads. Now, there's not a per-song download service that still uses it.
Follow Matt on Twitter.