Yesterday, Telus announced that streaming music app developer Rdio would be their official mobile subscription service. Yep, that means their meager proprietary music service is on the way out.
Traditionally, I’ve been a Slacker user for their great BlackBerry apps, but after using Rdio in earnest for the first time today, I can see why people dig it. It’s a bit more sociable in that you can follow friends and see what they’re listening to – kind of like Zune, or iTunes Ping. They’ve got mobile clients for just about everything (the iPad app is going through Apple’s approval process now, pic above), and support syncing with your iTunes or Windows Media Player collections, as well as pushing songs to your phone for local syncing. Their web and desktop apps are both excellent complements to the clients Rdio has available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. For $10/month, you basically get unlimited on-demand streaming music, and soon you’ll be able to buy DRM-free tracks individually too.
The strategy of relying on partners rather than owning the whole end-to-end content/service stream is a refreshing step from Telus. Their partnership with Skype is an obvious step in the same direction. Video calling is still not quite ready for mobile, but Telus has already got started with with a Skype-branded LG Optimus Black with voice over IP calling. Facebook is also a big part of Telus’ social networking angle, with official branding on their upcoming HTC Status as well as the INQ Cloud Touch.
With Telus handing over the reins for many services, that brings up the question “doesn’t that just make Telus a dumb pipe?” Telus answered that yesterday at a preview event in Toronto by saying “Maybe, but you can be an awfully smart dumb pipe.” Instead, they’re hoping to enable and curate the plethora of new wireless solutions that independent parties are tackling (though they’re also against unnecessary pre-loaded bloatware). In the end, Telus admitted that dedicated third parties would always be able to do a better job at addressing niche markets than they could, which was the first of many refreshingly honest statements I heard from them that day. Another was that they have no desire to “hold customers hostage” with contracts longer than they want, which is why they changed their early termination fee structure to be more representative of the subsidy Telus provides for the up-front device cost. Of course, that might mean you’re actually paying more to kill a young contract on an expensive smartphone, but at least the reasoning is sound.
Overall, Telus conveyed that they’re interested in removing barriers like commitment and price, and reducing the complexity of the whole phone ownership process, in addition to striking up sensible partnerships like this one with Rdio.