A Swedish ITunes Killer

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Industries that go through big changes have always attracted startups, and the online music industry is no different. One of the more interesting ones is Spotify, which streams music to your computer.

The company's deals with major record companies Universal Music Group, EMI Music, Warner Music Group and Sony BMG make it a serious contender.

Spotify is available as a beta in Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Users can choose between a free ad-supported version, which is accessible by invitation only, at least so far, or a premium version, which costs 99 Swedish krona (US$13) per month or 9 Swedish krona for 24 hours.

Using the ad-supported version will take some time getting used to -- at first, it's a bit annoying.

Using Spotify, I come close to the same elated feeling of having all this music at my fingertips as when Napster first came around, but this time it's, of course, all legal.

The user interface is fairly easy to use, as long as you know how to click and drag-and-drop. Songs start when you click them.

Spotify is currently available for Windows XP, Vista and Mac OS X.

Support for mobile is also in the planning stages, it would be interesting to see what would happen if Spotify tried to offer support for the iPhone, but I think I already know the answer.

But Spotify isn't the only service that should keep Apple executives up at night. Phone manufacturers Nokia and Sony Ericsson are about to start selling phones bundled with music.

Nokia's Comes With Music bundles unlimited downloads for a year with a mobile phone. Comes With Music will be available across a range of Nokia devices, including the new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, the N95 8GB and the 5310 XpressMusic.

So far it has signed a distribution deal with Carphone Warehouse in the U.K. But Nokia has plans to launch in other countries with Nokia Music online stores through next year, including Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and Sweden.

Sony Ericsson has decided to work exclusively with operators with its PlayNow plus. It has so far signed a deal with Telenor in Sweden.

The operator will offer a special version of the W902 Walkman phone, which will come with unlimited access to music for the first six months and 1,000 preloaded songs. Songs will not have DRM (digital rights management) restrictions. After six months, the user can keep the 100 most-played tunes.

The music service will after six months cost 99 Swedish krona per month. The phone and monthly service costs 299 Swedish krona, and users must sign a two-year contract.

For the music industry this is all good -- I am almost convinced they have finally realized that customers aren't the enemy. Better late than never, I guess.

The one thing that worries me is how much the record companies are charging for content. I hope that leaves enough room for companies like Spotify to thrive and evolve.

And by the way, I like Dean Martin's rendition of "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" better than Frank's.

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