RIM's PR department must be feeling rather persecuted right now. The launch of its long awaited BlackBerry 7 generation of handsets was overshadowed by Googorola and the HP bombshell, now, when it's trying to bring attention to a major new feature, Steve Jobs goes and hangs his hat up.
The feature in question is BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) Music, and RIM describes is as a "...cloud-based service that enables social and viral music discovery by allowing users to build an evolving, community-based music library that is shared amongst their BBM Music friends." Given the undesirable press BBM received during the recent riots, this is a good time to highlight its benign uses.
Here's how it works: you build up a music profile of 50 tracks, 25 of which can be replaced in any given month, and then invite friends to subscribe to that profile, whereupon you can then access each other's tracks. You can then, in theory, have access to limitless music, depending on how many friend you have and how diverse their music tastes are.
You can listen to the entire tracks, not just previews, and do things like make playlists, shuffle, and indulge in social activities, such as telling your mates how rubbish their music tastes are, and you can see how many of them are listening to your tracks. Music can even be saved to devices to enable off-line listening.
"More than 45 million customers already love the social communication benefits delivered through BBM and we are thrilled to be extending the experience into a uniquely social and interactive music service," said Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO at RIM. "We have partnered with leading music companies to provide a ‘full track' music sharing and discovery experience that will provide users with quality music on demand and allow them to connect with friends on a whole new level."
The service seems to have the approval of all the major music labels, and is powered by cloud music provider Omniphone. A closed beta commences today in the UK, US and Canada, and the service will probably cost a subscription of a fiver a month when it hard-launches. You can find out more about BBM Music on this blog post.