NAND FLASH MEMORY specialist manufacturer Sandisk has been trying to persuade European mobile operators to bundle handsets with microSD cards preloaded with music.
An earlier attempt by the company to sell music albums on SD cards as alternatives to CDs has not exactly swept the world. But the company argues that new business models can be enabled by the fact that a microprocessor with encryption software can be put onto a card to police its use.
It has a new system, called Slotradio, already available in the US through mobile operator Verizon, which packs 1,000 tracks on a microSD card with 3GB left free for the use of the handset owner. The tracks can be played on the handset, or any other Slotradio enabled handset, but they cannot be transferred to another music player or computer.
A user who wants free use of a track can go to the operator's site and buy it. This simply unlocks the track, relieving the network of the task of downloading it.
Mike Wong, Sandisk's head marketing honcho, said, "As one operator told me, it would be cheaper for him to give away a 16GB card full of tracks than to deliver them over the network."
The operator might see this as a way to get a slice of the online music sales enjoyed by Apple's Itunes store.
The handset owner does not get to choose the tracks on the card, though there is a choice of collections with titles like "Songs of the 80's and 90's", which envisages the kind of bundles advertised constantly on daytime TV.
It's not really one for your hip teenage texters, then. "It's for the kind of person who does not want the bother of choosing tracks to carry around," said Wong. "But the real point is that putting a microprocessor and encryption on a card opens up a lot of possibilities." µ