Research in Motion may soon roll out a music streaming service for its mobile devices, a move that may better position the company to compete with rivals Apple and Google.
RIM is negotiating with major labels including Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI and may launch music streaming on its BlackBerry Messenger service as soon as the first week of September.
A RIM spokeswoman declined to comment on the report or supply additional details, beyond saying that BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, is one of the largest social networks in the world.
RIM will have plenty of competition with its new service, however, as rivals are already in the running. Amazon was the first to launch mobile music streaming with its “Cloud Drive” in March. This past May, Google launched the first test of its digital music service, “Google Music,” which allows users to store music collections on an online server and stream downloaded files over any Internet-connected device.
Also, Apple is fine-tuning its music service, dubbed “iCloud,” which is expected to launch later this summer. As part of its iCloud plan, Apple acquired licensing rights the major U.S. labels so its customers should be able to stream music directly from their servers, rather than uploading MP3 files from their home computers, as is the case with other services.
While music streaming is popular, especially to the younger mobile users RIM is hoping to attract, analyst Matthew Thornton at Avian Securities said he doubted the music service will have wide appeal, though it may help the company keep its existing BlackBerry customers interested.
“I just don’t think trying to replicate Apple is really going to change their situation near term,” Thornton said.
Thornton and many others agree that while the music streaming service may be a good short-term project, RIM should focus its attention on its QNX operating software and make the transitions to its much-touted, super smartphones, expected early next year.
Several weeks ago, the Canadian company moved in that direction, halting development of its BlackBerry PlayBook 2 in order to sharpen its focus on the super-phones, which are expected to feature dual-core chips and run on the PlayBook’s QNX operating system. RIM hopes QNX devices will help it gain a more solid footing in the smartphone market it once dominated.
But the new phones aren’t expected until late this year or early 2012. If RIM can successfully launch music streaming on its BBM service, which the company claims has 45 million users, the stopgap move may help the struggling company as it makes its transition and fights for relevance in the market.