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Monday, August 22, 2005 - Page updated at 03:52 PM

In a previous version of this story, a fact box incorrectly stated that there were two co-founders. There are five: Bill Valenti, Don Davidge, Edward Flinchem, Loreen Milbrath and Alex Robinson.

Melodeo plans free podcast downloads to phones

Seattle Times technology reporter

A Seattle company is announcing plans today to make available free software to download podcasts on mobile phones.

Melodeo, which makes software to download songs to mobile phones, hopes to raise its profile by latching on to the growing popularity of podcasts by being one of the first to offer the service.

The Mobilcast service would allow users a way to bypass a computer to download audio content directly to a phone.

The company also plans to announce today the appointment of a new chief executive — Jim Billmaier. Prior to Melodeo, Billmaier was chief executive at Kirkland-based Digeo, a cable box developer founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Bob Wise has left Continuous Computing to join the company as senior vice president of engineering.

Melodeo's co-founder and original CEO, Bill Valenti, becomes executive vice president. In that role, his business card states, he will play maestro and protagonist.

Ed Flinchem, co-founder and original vice president of engineering, becomes vice president of product strategy.

Melodeo


Develops software for mobile phones to allow full-track music downloads to the phone and now podcasts.

Headquarters: Seattle.

Founded: October 2003.

New management: Chief executive Jim Billmaier previously of Seattle-based Digeo; Bob Wise, senior vice president of engineering, formerly of Continuous Computing.

Venture capital: $11.7 million in two rounds.

Investors: GF Capital, Ignition Partners, Intel Capital, Voyager Capital

Employees: 40, plus three in London.

The announcement of the pending release of the Mobilcast software is part of a campaign by Melodeo to draw attention to its full-track music service for mobile phones.

The music service has been adopted by two carriers, one in Canada and the other in Spain. U.S. carriers have hesitated to roll out a service while pricing gets sorted out with the recording industry.

"I think this is not something that is being done as a way to make revenue," said David Linsalata, an analyst with IDC, a research firm. "It is being seen as an entryway to get Melodeo's main products out."

Stan Sorensen, Melodeo's senior director of marketing, said if people first learn how to download free podcasts to their mobile phone, then maybe downloading full music tracks will be easy.

"This is an awareness drive. If you can download content over the air and its relatively easy to do this, and you know your phone is an adequate device to do it, you can take this stuff and go to town," Sorensen said.

In 2004, The Diffusion Group estimated that 800,000 people in the U.S. downloaded a podcast. By 2010, it predicts 56.8 million people will download podcasts. Still, compared to the 180 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., that's relatively low.

There will also be a technology hurdle. When Melodeo first launches the software in September, it will work only with Symbian operating systems. Shortly after the initial launch, Melodeo said it will launch a Java version.

Linsalata said most consumers don't know what operating system they have. Another issue will be getting the software on the phone.

Melodeo will offer the software for free on its Web site. Most likely, a user will enter their mobile phone number into the site and receive a text message with access to the application.

"They have a lot of challenges," Linsalata said. "That said, it could certainly take off."

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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