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Mercora Goes Mobile

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Mercora, one of the place shifting companies I have written in the past is going mobile. To remind you all, Mercora is a peer-to-peer radio network which lets you share playlists of music on your hard drives with a certain set of friends, or listeners. The company calls it IM Radio. Mercora has just launched a new software that will allow consumers who have Windows Mobile devices to listen to the music from their own hard drives, and from their IM playlists.

There is free and paid version of the service. With this, Srivats Sampath, CEO of Mercora, says they are taking the battle directly to the satellite users. (Remember, the satellite guys have just started to stream their music channels on the web, so this is more like tit for tat!) That they are doing it, doesn’t surprise me. Orb’s service (review pending!) already lets you listen to your disk-based music, but Mercora takes the concept of “playlist” sharing to another level.

There is just one problem with this model: carriers.

Given that this really threatens their business model and insatiable greed (aka selling songs at $2.99 a pop), how long do you think before the wireless operators shut the service down. Sampath, says that he is taking the model to the carriers, and hopefully they will see that they are cheaper and more interactive than radio. He does acknowledge that carriers can shut them down fast, but he points out that this doesn’t disrupt their ‘sales’ model. He was quick to point out that more and more devices are coming with wifi, and most offices have wifi so it can bypass the cellular networks. Another problem – the frail state of our wireless networks. Unless you are on Verizon EVDO, you are basically reduced to using IxRTT or GPRS networks. Remember Windows Mobile devices can’t support EDGE for now. “I tested it with GPRS/T-Mobile and it works great,” says Sampath. I will try it and update you folks tomorrow.

8 Responses to “Mercora Goes Mobile”

  1. Yes, I agree with Sampath. WiFi and WiMAX will enable this technology and the business model to survive. They just need to hang in there until WiFi is ubiquitous. Off course, one could argue that this could take years. Its a classic chicken-and-egg. I tend to beleive that killer apps like these will only help expedite the spread of WiFi. My 2 cents of suggestion to Sampath would be that they should really try to focus on selling to “communities” as a whole in addition to marketting to individuals. Apple did a great job of bringing out their Rendezvous technology with a similar touch. They were not obvious about it, but the natural progression (which we see now) is friends sharing music = aka = community radio stations. Besides, WiFi “is” a community technology – coffee shops, airports, neighborhoods, etc. Their model would greatly benefit from tapping this trend.

  2. I believe Windows Mobile 5.0, announced today, may support EDGE, but am not sure.

    Separately, check out PC for a new Sony Vaio ultraportable review that is the first laptop to include EDGE radios from either Cingular or TMobile…works concurrently with Verizon’s EVDO PC card modems…pricing is high at almost $80/month.

  3. This is a classic example of the problem with closed distribution networks. The carriers have an enormous incentive to keep their networks closed to protect high margins. Consumers have tremendous incentive to try to pry the network open to access compelling affordable services. This wouldn’t matter in 1990, but expanding consumer access to a large open data transport mechainsm (aka, the Internet) is a game changer.

    Mercora may get booted from the carrier networks in the short term, but I would rather bet on their business model (long term) than the buisness model of the satellite radio providers. They’re rapidly gaining momentum and there will be a place for them in the future, but the fact remains, we are in the midst of a fundamental transition from dominant closed networks to dominant open networks. Satellite radio’s business model sits on the wrong side of that revolution.

  4. Esme,

    Good point, thought what I wonder how cities can really afford to build these networks when their civic infrastructure is crumbling. i don’t deny the role of broadband, and need for options. just wonder who cities prioritize?

  5. Esme Vos

    Exactly why we need more competition in the wireless and wired broadband space. If cities set up their own networks and allow the Mercoras of the world to offer their services, everyone gets around the carriers.