Paves way for launch of mobile-based download service.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest mobile phone operator, and Microsoft have forged a collaboration that paves the way for the launch of DoCoMo's own mobile-based music download service.

Two new handsets being introduced by DoCoMo this summer will support both Microsoft's Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 for portable devices, the companies said May 10. That will allow users to play music downloaded to a PC from more than 100 online music services as well as DoCoMo's own as yet-unnamed service, which is expected to be launched soon.

One report here says users of the DoCoMo service will pay about ¥300 ($2.70) per song.

Launching a mobile-based download service would put DoCoMo in direct competition with Japanese telecom KDDI's Chaku-Uta Full service, which has sold more than 30 million tracks since its November 2004 launch.

DoCoMo bought a 42% stake in Tower Records Japan in November. At press time it was not clear what role if any Tower would play in a DoCoMo download service.