mSpot Opens Up Freemium Cloud Music Service in a Bid to Pre-empt Apple and Google; In-Depth Q&A with CEO Daren Tsui

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play songs that you have already bought. Therefore we have a free 2 gigabytes [per user] in our cloud. If you have a very large library, you can pay a nominal monthly fee for more than 2 gigabytes.

X: You talked earlier about the need to simplify the synchronization of music across devices, but now you’re talking about music that streams from the cloud. How do those things fit together?

DT: The way our technology works is that we don’t stream only. We have created a proprietary technology where when you request a song from the cloud, it plays right away, like a streaming protocol, but in the background a digital copy is being downloaded to the phone’s SD card or memory. The next time you hit the same song, it will play from the local copy, versus going to the network. So think of it as an automatic sync that you don’t have to worry about. As you play more and more songs, they’re synched to the device, thus you don’t need the network as much. We also have an algorithm that pre-fetches N number of songs on the playlist or album you are listening to. We set N to 1 by default because we want to make sure we don’t burn up your 3G data plan, but you can set it to whatever you want.

Another thing that we are adding to the next version of the software, which will be available in mid-July, is that if you tap and hold on a playlist, a box will come up and allow you to tag it for a Wi-Fi sync. You can tag playlists that you want to download, and when you are in Wi-Fi range, we grab as much as we can, based on those tags. That will allow you to basically sync all of your music from your PC to your mobile phone.

X: This is starting to sound a lot like a full synchronization. Why not just jump straight to synching a user’s entire music collection?

DT: We did quite a bit of focus group research before we designed and launched this particular service, and one of the things we heard loud and clear was that a lot of consumers don’t want to eat up the storage they have on their phone. We tried to dig a little bit as far as why. Some of them want to reserve space for photos and videos. There is another camp of folks who feel that the more data they have on their phone, the slower the phone becomes. So as one option we offer streaming where we never eat up any of your storage.

X: You’re starting out on Android, but do you see mSpot as a service that would also appeal to users of Apple mobile devices? If you have all your music on iTunes, and you sync your iPhone or your iPad regularly, you’re likely already keeping your music synched across devices, so is there really a need for cloud-based access?

DT: I think there are a couple of reasons why even Apple users would want to use our service. One other thing we found through our focus groups is that there is a surprising number of people who never or seldom use the sync cable. We can help those folks. But the broader appeal is to people who have quite a large music collection on their PCs. If you have a 32 gigabyte iPhone and you add a few movies, you’re running out of storage. For that case, the cloud concept is very appealing.

The other thing is that people who own Apple products may own other products that are not by Apple. What if you have an iPad but also a … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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