Is Microsoft Blocking MP3s From Verizon Wireless Phones?

from the antitrust-department-calling... dept

Yesterday we wrote about Verizon Wireless’ overpriced, me-too music download offering that would let you transfer songs to your phone if you bought them online (for $1/song) or let you pay twice as much if you really, really, really needed the song immediately and wanted to download it directly to your phone over the air. That wasn’t that surprising, as everyone had pretty much expected it. However, PCS Intel is claiming that signing up for this program on your phone might have some nasty side-effects that could interest some anti-trust lawyers. It’s using Microsoft technology to handle copy protection, and apparently if you upgrade your phone to support Verizon Wireless’ music store you will no longer be able to play MP3s on your phone. Basically, the new phone software proactively stops any attempts at playing MP3s — which PCS Intel claims was part of the agreement Microsoft made with Verizon Wireless. If they were going to do this, then they wanted the phones to be exclusively set to play Microsoft’s format. If true (and some additional support would be nice) that should set off quite a few anti-trust alarm bells somewhere. PCS Intel claims to have an internal memo from Verizon Wireless discussing this issue, and saying that should anyone complain, they’re to be given a refurbished phone with older firmware, but that users are not to be warned ahead of time that an upgrade will wipe out their MP3-playing abilities. If this is true, it looks bad for both Verizon Wireless and Microsoft.

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Comments on “Is Microsoft Blocking MP3s From Verizon Wireless Phones?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

More like more people in the T-Mobile network.
Had Cingular, and you’d have to pay ME to make me go back…..T-Mobile is ten times better, and they aren’t putting this useless crap on our phones. I want my phone to make calls, send text messages, and be able to take halfway decent pictures and sometimes short movie clips. That’s it. I don’t need a phone/mp3 player, or a phone/PDA/movie/mp3 player.
History has shown that when you shove all that stuff into one device, none of it works well. The last thing I want when I’m calling 911 is to have a BSOD…..

MusicMan says:

Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

And Apple has at least once actively altered the the iPod code to stop working with RealNetworks superior quality music

(Real encodes 192K AAC and transcodes to WMA for Windows)

Apple owns 80% of the market and Microsoft is the smaller player.

Guess who gets sued first. If selectivly supporitng formats is a “crime”.

MusicMan says:

Re: Re: Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

So, Apple created the iPod so it is ok for them even with an overwhelming share of the market to do anything they want to break and block choices?

But Verizon can’t chose what is on their phones?

So since Microsoft made Windows I guess you assume it would be ok for them to totally block software from Corel or Adobe or Open Office from running on it.

It is possible that there were some technical limiations to the phone supporting two formats. Microsoft’s own media player supports MP3. DRM code is bigger than just decoding code.

I can understand the complaint, except for the kool-aid drinking attitude that Apple can do anything it wants, including limiting iPod owners to user one music store, while those using Microsoft technology have nearly a dozen to choose from with different prices, encoding rates, and music library variations.

The iPod is a really cool device. If Apple let more companies offer music for it, I would love to have one. I refuse to by something with the limited choices the iPod offers. A velvet lined prison is still a prison.

Apple in its dominance of the portable music market has been way more monopolistic than Microsoft has. I don’t need the iPod to support WMA, I need Apple to license fairplay so there are choices.

If you don’t like agressive competition that’s fine, but have the independence of mind to not like it from both Apple and Microsoft when it happens.

Bill says:

Re: Re: Re: Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

> I refuse to by something with the limited choices the iPod offers. A velvet lined prison is still a prison.

You DO you realize that an iPod is an MP3 player and not tied to the iTunes Music Store, right. Nor is the iTunes program tied to DRM; it support mostly UN-DRMed formats (MP3, AAC, WAV, AL, etc) and only one DRM format (protected AAC) An amazing number of misinformed or ill-researched people seem to not realize that (usually they are the ones slinging vitriol at Apple, the iPod or iTunes, too). You don’t HAVE to use the iTunes Music Store AT ALL, bud, to play music with iTunes on your Mac or PC or on your iPod

Nor will I so long as Apple, Microsoft, Napster, or ANYONE is using DRM. DRM is evil. Apple’s is far less evil than most, but it’s still there. It’s franly a waste of my time too. The iTMS DRM was cracked in short order (and repeatedly there after as it was altered.)

Just purchase the CD, stick it in your Mac or PC and tell iTunes to rip it to MP3 files and download ’em to your iPod. Or AAC files. Or Apple Lossless. Or even WAV I think. Actually, no telling involved. Insert CD, click Import, wait until done, put iPod in dock, wait for it to sync up, press play.

Or buy your online music from stores and sites and artists that sell it unencrypted and/or in MP3 format. They do exist and are usually more worth listening to than the DRMed music stores.

However, if I had to choose a DRMd music store, it’d be iTMS because I can use that music on Macs and PCs and my iPod. I can burn CDs to listen to in my car or whatever. Windows PlaysFerShure doesn’t do all that (most especially they don’t do Mac, nor do an of the players that support it.) Hell, iTunes supports other player devices besides the iPod (or it did last I checked) and I’m not just talking about the ROKR and the RAZR V3i.

The only iTunes music I download are the freebies they offer each week (bottom left corner of the main iTMS screen). Most of which are typical of music these days: crap. Sturgeon’s Law applies. But every once few weeks there are good ones.

MusicMan says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

Yes I know an Ipod supports MP3, Duh?

BTW iTunes was still selling some of the lower bitrates in the industry 128K AAC (which for lots of stuff is just fine) yet Apple has activly tried to block iPod owners from the choice of Real’s 192K AAC file.

If I know I like something, yes I can buy a CD.

However, right now I am using Rhapsody “Take it with you” So 95% of thier million plus songs I can download to my player at anytime.

Last Month I downloaded several Christmas Albums that on iTunes would have cost me $50. Cost me $15 for my monthly fee.

I can explore new music and artists as many as I want. This is the best way for me since most of the music I like isn’t played on the Radio.

I can’t do this with an iPod because:
A) Apple is behind in the features of Fairplay
B) They aren’t willing to license a superior DRM system.

DRM isn’t evil it is a response to large scale disreguard for the rights of ALL involved in bringing music to us. After a few glitches last spring, PlayforSure is working great on my Zen Micro.

IF you steal music, are rich enough to buy any CD you might like, or just listen to the music radio stations program… Cool enjoy the iPod.

pplants says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

Yeah, and in four months your total is more and climbing or you don’t get to keep it.

This stuff y’all talk about like superiority of128kvs192k and so on reminds me of the days when people fought over high numbers of mhz in their receivers. Only thing though was that the only creatures that benefitted from that was dogs as people couldn’t pick up on it, lol.

Ham N' Cheese Sammich says:

Re: Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

You’re an idiot. yup yup!

We’re talking about a company blocking the industry standard mp3 format from being used once you use their “service” on your device. The Apple iPod in no way blocks, or hinders the standard mp3 format at any time. Your argument has nothing to do with the issue at hand, you seem to have pulled it straight out of your ass. And yes DRM is evil. Once I pay money for a CD or music, it’s mine. I will do whatever I want to do with it, listen to it in any way I choose, so long as I do it in my own house or within my own property.

MusicMan says:

Re: Re: Uh excuse me, but I can play WMA on an iPod

Ham and Cheese, that’s inteligent call people with another view, idiots.
This is all about spin. Verizon decided it wanted to change formats, so it could do downloadable music like ITunes. Anyone ever think verizon chose not to support MP3, because they have a history of marking people pay through the nose!!
Rumors are Apple demaned a song limit on the “IPod Phone” so it wouldn’t compete with iPods.
Apple blocked Real. Verizon / Microsoft chose not to support mp3. Keep in mind at low bitrates like you want on a phone. WMA is better than MP3 anyway.
I can buy my music or I can rent it MY CHOICE, YOUR CHOICE… You have limited choices on an iPod.
As has been said you can always buy a CD.
On an iPod you can buy tunes with DRM at a price the simular to a CD but at lower quality.
Or you can get music from places like emusic.
YOU CAN NOT join a subscription services like Real offers with Rhapsody.
With players using Microsoft WMA technology
You can by CDs
Buy music from emusic
Buy music from many stores with different prices and features
or get all the music you want for $15 a month.
Microsoft based players offer more choice than the iPod, end of story.
If you are mad at Microsoft but not Apple then you are being irational.
If you hate DRM you should be mad at both Apple and Microsoft. IF you hate people who limit your choice, Apple is the bigger offender.
Wanting choice and praising Apple is an illogical position.

MusicMan says:

Re: Re: Uh excuse me, but I can't play WMA on an iPod


IT has fallen to 70%

It was over 80%
and itunes

And if you are paying attention. To get the newest Quicktime, you need to install iTunes. and visa versa.

So is apple tying products. Using the strength of one to create market for another. That is part of what Microsoft was sued for.

pplants says:

Re: Re: Re: Uh excuse me, but I can't play WMA on an iPod

The main point is that Apple does well with its ipod/itunes, not because of specifics but because of what it does best that msft does poorly… integration…ease of use….reliability. That’s why it is prefered and when they expanded to allow msft users to join the fun they came in droves….imagine…..stuff that really works!!

MusicMan says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uh excuse me, but I can't play WMA on an iPod

pplants what yous saying is you want microsoft to start prevent computers and players not built by microsoft from running their software and than they will be just like apple and that will make things better?
Design wise the iPod is fantastic. Business wise the reason Windows owns the market with little impact from Apple and OSX is because Apple makes you buy their machines to run it.
Lets talk about some of their mistakes. The cube looked great till it cracked. The nano is having cracking problems. Some their notebooks will burn your lap. Until they took some heat they thought $199 to replace a $50 battery was good policy. (Always thinking of the customer right? )
You can’t blame Microsoft for Apple’s decision to be king of a tiny computer niche, rather than going head to head by licensing OSX to computer makers over all over the world.
The current versions of Windows are good OS’s. Rights management is much more powerful than Linux on a server. I tend to favor Linus for Web usage right now, but not as a cooperate server environment. The desktop is way more stable than anything under Xserver at the moment. OSX looks pretty but seems ot offer the user little control of the look and feel to match their personality. We should all use the colors Jobs likes best. (have they added the ability to alter the UI look and feel like Windows does?)
I realize the popular, lemming rebel crap is to just call Windows garbage its easy require no logic and gets you ready for another beet quicker, but the truth is XP is solid. I have been running the same install with updates coming for free for three years now. And I install and try lots of software.
Given the thousand of idiots dedicated to trying to attack and destroy my OS with Viruses etc. Keeping a good virus checker running has kept me clean for those three years even spending 30-40 hours on the net some weeks.
OSX is great. Macs are pretty but limited in choice and options and expensive. iPods are great, iTunes is average and behind the innovation curve with allowing music subscription which for me is a key feature. ITunes is doing some innovative things in Video and pod-casting.
No matter how great OSX is, the machines that run them are limited in options and styles. Windows doesn’t have an equal in abilities and user options on the market. OSX is crippled by Apple’s arrogance, and the Linux desktop is just about where Windows 97 was 9 years ago. (Though Linux DTs like Gnome and KDE are evolving quicker)
Microsoft has always been aggressive and times too aggressive, but Apple has NEVER been about choice since Job released the first MAc with no slots options for color or even ability to upgrade the memory without hacking the motherboard. Under the pretty windows and menus of the MAC OS, it was always limited until they built it on BSD-Unix. Then the great UI got a decent OS under it.
If all the software you want runs on OSX an you like the Mac hardware, buy one its a nice system in its limited options.
Same for the iPod. iPods don’t do what I want, and Apple has actively tried block innovators like Real Networks finally pushing them into the Microsoft camp.

Dan says:

How to be successful at business

Why is this a surprise? Microsoft has continually prevented growth of other technologies except for the ones that it either owns or has a hand in. One of the ways that you can “grow” is to block all competition and be the only offering out there. That way you don’t have to have a good product…. just the only one!

Keith says:

Wouldn't be suprising

Just look at how Verizon has handled their whole wireless business with technical limitations placed on Bluetooth file transfers, picture sharing and the like. Something like this is completely in character for Verizon. As for Microsoft it sounds like it’s like meets like. Smacks of the kinds of things they are trying to do with Vista to restrict copying of content, not to mention the old Internet Explorer on the desktop battles.

David Simpson (user link) says:

Class Action Anyone...

Man if I got a new phone…took their ‘upgrade’ and found MP3’s disabled…and was then offered an “old phone” as a replacement I would be knocking at the door of Milberg Weiss or Lerach Coughlin. I’m sure they would have a field day.

Sad part is…I’d probably end up with a new phone and they would end up with $10M settlement.

Just one guy says:

Re: Just makes it a better time to own things like

I don’t think I get it. Was it a joke? What does this app do? Rip CDs fast? How big is the market of people needing to rip CDs at 20x? (my very normal Mac Mini does 13x/14x easily on average using iTunes – which is free)

And what does the bit about the hardware key mean? Is the application copy protected, and tied to a single machine? Then why are they offering a free downloadable copy! But, in generale, why should I pay 99$ (+ optional 49$ for the hardware key) for having a ripping application going 33% faster than any free application around?

No, I don’t get it.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

Re: Re: Just makes it a better time to own things like

I don’t think I get it. Was it a joke? What does this app do? Rip CDs fast? How big is the market of people needing to rip CDs at 20x? (my very normal Mac Mini does 13x/14x easily on average using iTunes – which is free)

No stupid it doesn’t just rip cd’s fast it will also change their formats….

We will need more software applications that change formats you know like mp3 sounds like dog dirt and mp2 sounds like good quality listening for a even amount of space on your hard drive…

achacha says:

No Subject Given

Check it as a nice post for SEEM edits that enable a lot of the features that Verizon turns off when you buy a phone from them (like MP3 for ringtone, copying from trans flash to phone and OBEX bluetooth transfer). I got a cable from Motorola and made a few changes and now I can transfer files around (like wallpapers, ringtones, etc) without having to pay insane money for them. The more corporations try to limit us the more we try to undo them… and really it’s not that hard with a little effort.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

PCS Intel claims to have an internal memo from Verizon Wireless discussing this issue, and saying that should anyone complain, they’re to be given a refurbished phone with older firmware, but that users are not to be warned ahead of time that an upgrade will wipe out their MP3-playing abilities.

Seems like normal play for Verizon. I hate them so much. After repeated attempts to screw their customers I can’t believe people still sign up for their service. I think the problem is that nobody brings the stories to the big time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

Its amazing how these posts degenerate into name calling and do not seriously debate issues.

I would say that from what i see here, posters on Slashdot tend to be techier – while techdirt readers resort to the lowest common denominator > if others dont share your viewpoint you are an #$@@!&^%!!

Cellphonejunkie says:


Yup. I’ve heard it’s true. The tie-up between VZ & MS is exclusive…

VZW was also working w/ another company for their VCast video offers, and then suddenly dropped them in favor of MS’ format..

VZW has a great, high-speed 3G network and could have done a deal w/ Apple making their service compatible w/ the millions of iPods & hundreds of millions of already purchased iTunes tracks…

Who’s going to use this if it doesn’t work with the music files they’ve already purchased?

Mobile data won’t take off until the carriers start allowing choice… If I want iTunes, I should be able to download an iTunes app onto my handset. If I want WMP10 or Rhapsody, then I sohuld be free to download those as well…

The cell phone carriers continue to build these walled gardens, and then wonder why no one wants to use the services.

Gage Hunt says:

Verizon's phones DO play MP3's people..

** You people DO realize that you are still going to be able to keep your mp3 files and still play them on the phone – you are just required to synch them from your WMP into the phone, which will convert the files to wma for playback on the phone only. I REALLY dont understand what all the fuss is about. I called Verizon wireless today and tried to fake them out – acted like I didnt know to see if they would “confess” that the new upgrade wouldnt play my beloved mp3 files – the rep told me before I could even ask that YES, converting to the new software will disable native mp3 support on the handset – and gave the above instructions. They arent HIDEING anything. They arent scamming anyone. You people just want to hype it up and make it something it’s not.

BOB H says:


I just had a problem with my phone, and they told me they would update the software to “help”. I noticed my Mp3 player would not work, called customer service and all
I got was a lame apology. This does not work for me, I will not do business with them again. I bought the phone as an MP3 player. I was told the “Upgrade” is not reversible. I was just going to buy a new killer PC but I thinkI will get a MAC. Microsoft/Verizon conspiracy

Greg P says:


some of the people here are just plain retarted. Mostly Musicman, who doesn’t seem to realize that the music he rents from rhapsody is not really his and if the company goes under or he decides to no longer subscribe all of his music goes bye-bye.

The point is, apple supports the industry standards, plus their own proprietary formats. Microsoft is trying to force people to not use the industry standard so they can promote their own format, and leave anyone not using their software out in the cold.

This is why I own a mac.

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