KDDI (au) just launched a product called “au LISTEN MOBILE SERVICE”, or “LISMO” for short. If you wonder why the symbol used in marketing of this service is a squirrel, note that when you pronounce LISMO in Japanese, it sounds like risu-mo, and risu means squirrel, and squirrels are cute (or are they?) so that will help marketing…
The LISMO service consists of a few different products: the main part is a new pc-software called “au Music Port” and a corresponding software in your phone called “au Music Player”. The pc-software lets you connect your pc to your cell phone (only the new W41xx models are supported as far as I know – and only they have the new software installed as well) via a USB cable and do lots of different things. For example, you can rip CDs and convert them to HE-AAC format and transfer them to your phone. Au phones use this format for playing music – it’s daily name is “Chaku Uta Full” and downloading of such music used to be the biggest music download service in Japan (until iTunes showed up). You can also administer and backup your Chaku-uta Full you may have bought/downloaded on your phone. Note that there is DRM in the Chaku-uta Full spec, and files which have a time- or play-limitation on them cannot be downloaded to your pc. Further, you cannot copy files which have been ripped in this software on another pc, which means that the files you rip yourself get tagged by some kind of personal ID tag.
The au Music Port software seems to be very much like Apple iTunes in that you basically administer your library of songs in your pc, and you choose which songs to synchronize with your phone. In case your phone is running out of memory, you can create dynamic playlists in much the same way as iTunes. Further, you can synchronize e-mails, calender, pictures, and so forth with the software too.
Another part of the LISMO service is the online part, which as of yet is not that developed. There is an online community called “Uta Tomo” which lets you exchange play lists with other people. Further, there seems to be a function which notifies you if you are in the vicinity of another person playing the same song on his/her phone. Another function is when listening to radio with your phone, you can search for the song currently playing on the station you’re listening to.
In April, the online part of au’s offering will expand through a service called “Duostore” which is a direct competitor of Apple ITMS. There are not much details available of this store yet, but I would gues that it will be incorporated into the Music Port software on the pc side, and fairly easily accessable from the portal menu on your cell phone. Personally, I see this as a big threat against iTunes, because so many people already use their cell phones as sort of MP3-players; and if a full-scope music store (with competitive pricing, now Au sells a limited number of Chaku Uta Full for 315 yen/song, where iTunes is half as cheap) reachable from PCs as well, there are 21 million 3G au users who will want to use this service! I still have not heard so much about the NTT Docomo/Napster deal, which will further increase competition on the Japanese market. If Docomo gets that service up and running quickly enough, there will be three strong players on the market, and where will that leave e.g. Vodafone?
(source: KeiTai Watch)