Nokia, HP dive into radio streaming

Visual Radio to roll out in Europe this summer

HOLLYWOOD — Radio is jumping into the interactive age.

Cell phone manufacturer Nokia and IT company HP are teaming to offer FM radio stations the ability to stream interactive video content to go along with audio broadcasts. Dubbed Visual Radio, the service will initially work on FM-ready cell phones being made by Nokia and other manufacturers.

Although no broadcasters are signed up yet, the two companies hope to begin rolling out in Europe this summer and expand globally thereafter, with designs on the U.S. market by 2005. In addition to convincing stations to purchase the Visual Radio software and begin creating visual content, the two companies must also sign up cell phone carriers to deliver the programming.

While Nokia will continue production of handsets that can display the service and work with other manufacturers to create their own compatible phones, HP will handle marketing and sales with broadcasters.

“Already in Europe and Asia and more and more in the U.S., people want entertainment while they’re mobile,” said Andrew Bolwell, project director for Visual Radio at HP. “Once Nokia began making handsets that can play FM radio, we realized we could take this industry that hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years and create a compelling new experience.”

In demos already created for the service, HP and Nokia have enabled radio stations to let users see pictures of artists playing, vote in polls, and rate songs on the air. In the future, they plan to add commerce capabilities allowing users to download ringtones based on songs on the air or purchase songs they can later access on a computer.

Cell phone operators will be able to offer Visual Radio to users for a separate fee or as part of larger mobile content subscription packages. The operators will then split revenue generated by the service with broadcasters.

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