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Bomb Garden

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by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Phone Tag


Verizon wants you to be a music hunter. The company's running tons of ads on TV, in print and all over the web targeting hip young music devotees, who, in the course of their incredibly diverse lives, run into an incredibly diverse mix of music. These kids -- you, me, us -- know what we like when we hear it. We just don't always know what we're hearing.





Thus Verizon has new tech designed to help us hunt more efficiently. You hear a song out of the blue, you tell your phone to listen to the song, identify it and, the idea goes, download it for personal use. Really, phenomenally cool idea. They've got Prince's new single on verizon.com as a proof of concept, and it works.





Problem is, a new Prince song isn't going to catch me by surprise.





Some crew up the block from where Prince grew up might, though. In that case, both Verizon and I are screwed. You can't get most bands or songs on V-cast yet, meaning you ID a really dope, obscure song, you'll at best get the song title and band, not the song itself. That's a serious problem, especially if this is supposed to be the killer app that keeps Verizon's normal phones relevant while AT & amp;T/Cingular is flossin' the iTunes-ready iPhone.





Here's the problem: phone companies like selling their own ringtones because they pocket most of the money. Understandably profit-driven, they don't bother stocking tones that won't sell millions. The conflict between the ringtone game and the Song-ID conceit, then, is obvious. Verizon's trying both to horde profits and still exude an encyclopedic music hipster chic. It can't do both. If Verizon is serious about Song-ID, it needs to take the profit hit, hook up with Apple's vastly superior music vaults and allow users access to as much downloadable content as possible. They need to be high quality and cross-platform (PC, iPod) compatible. Only then will Song-ID have the heft it needs to keep Verizon's regular cell phones attractive.

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