After nearly a year of testing the waters, including joint ventures such as MySpace Mobile Alert service for Cingular customers last March, and April's Cingular-sponsored ringtone generation service for independent music artists, social networking giant MySpace has at last entered into a true mobile distribution partnership with Cingular Wireless, the joint venture between would-be merger partners BellSouth and AT&T.
The deal will help create a legitimate business model or at least part of one for MySpace's corporate owner, Fox Interactive, which purchased MySpace's founder in July 2005 for $580 million. Under the new deal, Cingular customers, perhaps using a Samsung BlackJack device, will pay an extra $2.99 per month for the ability to do a lot of what MySpace patrons already do for free on their PCs.
One notable difference, though, appears to be a direct connection between Cingular phones' built-in cameras and MySpace uploading, which could perhaps broadcast those photos to a tremendous audience.
Existing Cingular customers may be able to download Java applications that fit their existing phones for MySpace service, though presently, a list of supporting phones has yet to be provided.
This morning's statement from MySpace noted that terms of service for phone-based photo uploads will not apply to "inappropriate content and copyrighted material."? But with Fox and Cingular now willing to officially open the floodgates, it isn't clear at present how the partnership intends to screen incoming and outgoing content to make certain it follows its terms of service, or to what extent it would be capable of doing so.
The MySpace "sphere of e-mail," - spherical being the partnership's apparent geometry of choice - will now be extended to the mobile world, as both PC and mobile users will be able to communicate via textual e-mail, as well as post blog entries that can be immediately read by each blogger's sphere of friends.
The Cingular deal does not represent MySpace's first venture into the mobile arena; MySpace has had an existing deal with specialty cellular service provider Helio since last February. But this is easily MySpace's biggest and most lucrative step into the mobile space (should we say "sphere?"?).
While MySpace's target audience is, inarguably, comprised of affluent youth, who despite the now-ill-fitting moniker "wired,"? may at least be the most connected generation produced thus far, the principal tool for that connection may still be the phone, not the computer.
As MySpace evolves, it could conceivably shift its weight toward a mobile connectivity services provider for young users, where the PC-based Web connection ends up becoming the ancillary service. If so, that could be a much more solid business model for Fox Interactive than continuing to play with what other fee-incurring services can be tacked onto an ostensibly free Web site.