@ Midem: Orange Plans DRM-Free Music Rentals, Still Talking To Nokia

“Our intention definitely in 2008 is to drop DRM, so we can have a truly interoperable service linked with network access”, music product development director Brenda O’Connell told mocoNews.net. Orange UK launched converged music downloads using Windows Media for PC and AAC for mobile in November but: “The DRM ecosystem on the mobile and on the PC is fundamentally different; getting them to talk together to create a seamless experience was a huge amount of work.”

And results have been “nothing to write home about”, she conceded: “It’s taken us two years to get this converged service to market, two years is far too long. We’re also very concerned about the fact that customers are really rejecting DRM. We want to launch not only a la carte services but subscription-based services, rental models. DRM is what’s holding us back at this point.” Furthermore, Orange wants customers to retain their music on the network despite changing handsets and to offer the tunes over IPTV as well. But it will wait until all labels come aboard.

Orange content services SVP Herve Payan: “If we don’t remove the DRM, we believe it will be slow growth. Ideally, we will have MP3. The majors are changing; we think in the next six months we will have it.” Only 100 handsets can offer the full range of converged services Orange wants, he said.

Nokia: After having threatened to kneecap Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) Ovi music store in August – says Payan: “The only one who is capable of having the range of handsets available and the same timing of services on PC and mobile is the operator. We don’t mind doing an agreement with Nokia, as long as it’s clear for the consumer. We can’t block it – we are working with Nokia – we are in discussions so that the two can coexist.”

iPhone: Payan: Orange customers use eight to 10 times more data than others. “It is very important to have not just an iPhone but unlimited data because the device goes from mobile to WiFi without telling you – if you don’t have an unlimited data subscription the bill can be quite costly.”