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Source: Forbes.com Forbes.com

Motorola's iTunes Competitor

Published: 26 Sep 2009 19:28:18 PST

At the recent unveiling of its new Cliq phone, Motorola won plaudits for its custom-made Blur software, which automatically pushes updates from Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to the phone's home screen. Less heralded, but arguably equally important, is the handset maker's new media-sharing software, Media Link, which will launch along with the Cliq later this year.

The software is designed to connect Motorola ( MOT - news - people ) phones with users' computers and the Internet to quickly transfer music, photos and videos between devices. It also features a built-in connection to Amazon.com ( AMZN - news - people ), mobile applications distributor Handmark and Blockbuster ( BBI - news - people ) to make it easy for users to purchase new music and videos. Motorola is offering it as a free download to people who purchase the Cliq and its European cousin, the Dext.

Motorola has offered similar capabilities on previous devices, as have other manufacturers. But Media Link stands out as the most sophisticated media management tool offered to date by Motorola. In essence, it is Motorola's answer to Apple's ( AAPL - news - people ) iTunes ecosystem, which has boosted sales of the iPhone by giving consumers a convenient way to purchase, transfer and store media on and off their handsets.

Sue Forbes, Motorola's vice president of cloud services, says the company realized it needed a better media management system while it was working on its new smart phones. Cliq was built around the idea that consumers should have easy access to their contacts and media. Motorola felt it needed a back-end system that supported the same ideals.

Motorola selected German software maker Nero for the project, based on its experience working with different video standards and media file formats. Nero built the system; Motorola is licensing it.

Forbes contends that Media Link will set Cliq apart from other smart phones--including other phones that run on Google's ( GOOG - news - people ) Android platform--by making media transfers as efficient as possible. Because Media Link is compatible with iTunes, Cliq owners will be able to move entire playlists from iTunes to their phones, saving them the time and effort of recreating them. (Media Link also supports Microsoft's ( MSFT - news - people ) Windows Media playlists.)

Like iTunes, Media Link is designed to be an easy-to-navigate one-stop shop. Seven tabs within the software offer access to photos, music, videos, online storefronts, utilities, settings and help functions. Files are grouped in reverse chronological order with the most recent files at the top of the screen. Users can drag and drop files between their phones and PCs using a mouse. (Phones must be attached to PCs using a USB cord; Media Link doesn't support over-the-air transfers.)

Media Link also sports some features missing in iTunes, such as the ability to create phone ring tones with one click, tweak photos with cropping and red eye reduction tools, and upload pictures to sites like Facebook and Flickr. "There are some piecemeal solutions out there, but this is more robust and comprehensive," says Kris Barton, Nero's executive vice president for global products. For a one-time free of $39.95, users can upgrade to a premium version of Media Link that includes video editing software, among other features.

The system could get smarter yet. Forbes says Motorola is considering linking Blur--which resides only on phones--with Media Link, which is based on computer desktops. A match-up would bring the Cliq's contact list and calendar into the mix, making it easier to manage and organize the phone's various functions. Should Motorola launch a mobile applications store, as it is rumored to do, Media Link could connect to the store and incorporate applications into its system.

Will Media Link increase Cliq sales? Forbes concedes that Blur will capture most people's attention on the Cliq, but stresses that Media Link is "a very important component" of the phone. "Getting media from PCs to phones is a big pain point for consumers," she says. "If you can't get your playlist onto your phone, it can be very frustrating."

Though Media Link is currently attached only to the Cliq and Dext, Motorola may bundle it with future phones.

Nero, in turn, is looking to license similar systems to other electronics makers under the generic name of "Mobile Sync." Barton says the software would suit a range of portable gadgets, including netbooks, mobile Internet devices and media players, and could be stretched beyond media management to include electronic calendars and contacts lists.

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