We wondered who would be first out the gate to battle it out with Nokia's Comes With Music subscription service and we should've known it would be that company with those Walkman handsets...
Yep, Sony Ericsson has today announced its 'PlayNow plus' subscription service - also with the 'Big Four' record labels aboard (EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, Warner Music) - and a system of monthly payments.
Designed by those innovative chaps at Omnifone, the Sony PlayNow plus service will be first installed on the impending five megapixel Walkman W902 (pictured) and a selection of 1,000 of the "most recent popular tracks, both locally and globally" will be preinstalled.
After your sophisticated musical taste leads you to delete 998 of those you can set about all-you-can-eat downloading with the nice option to keep 100 tracks DRM-free when your subscription expires. Rather cleverly these 100 tracks will automatically be picked based on which you have played the most. On the other hand, what bitrates and general PC-centric restrictions are in place during the subscription however aren't yet known, so a word of caution there.
Outside of the music itself, PlayNow plus will also include the ability to recommend albums or playlists to fellow users and search their recommendations. The company's mature TrackID technology will also be integrated too allowing subscribers to play songs they like into their handset, have them identified and then offered the option to download them (should they be part of the Big Four's artist stable or any of the 1000s of local labels which signed up).
Sadly the key aspect: pricing, isn't available as yet though users will get the option to have it bolted on seamlessly into their monthly mobile phone contract. As for availability, those ever progressive Swedes will get it first before the end of the year with the rest of Europe joining them in early 2009.
Expect even more rival announcements - and something typically ludicrous from Motorola - between now and then...
Update: Swedish pricing will be 99 crowns a month or roughly £8 which seems pretty reasonable to me.