Opera Mobile has built its reputation on its internet browser for mobile devices, but it has gradually expanded that remit to cover other services like apps — and now, music. The company has soft-launched a mobile music offering in the Russian market, called Unlimited Music, a subscription-based, download and streaming service that it is trying out first in Russia — a key market for Opera, and one that is not very crowded when it comes to legal music services — before it expands elsewhere.
The news was first reported by the Russian-language business daily, Vedomosti, and confirmed to TechCrunch by Opera itself.
A spokesperson says that “Opera is the enabling layer and not the owner of the content,” meaning that it is working with another provider that is providing a white-label service to Opera, much as the company did when it first launched its app store.
(That app storefront was originally powered by the Eric Schmidt-backed Appia, but then got taken under Opera’s own control after its acquisition of Handster.) Opera’s partner in Russia is Iricom division Rights Communications.
Earlier this year, Russia was named by the International Intellectual Property Alliance as among the worst offenders when it comes to piracy, and up to now legal services have been somewhat thin on the ground. Another launched this year comes from the search giant Yandex, which offers the Yandex.Music service. That costs $6.99 per month and lets people stream and download tracks on different devices, including the iPhone.
Whether all of this spells an even bigger challenge or opportunity for Opera remains to be seen. Norway-based Opera already counts Russia among its biggest markets so it’s an obvious place for them to try out their music services first in that regard.
Unlimited Music, says the Opera spokesperson, “is built to make music files available in a simple and affordable way for Russians no matter if they are on a feature phone or a smartphone.” The service will let users on platforms like Android and Windows Phone stream and download music, but on iOS they will only be allowed to stream.
The price will be 150 rubles per month (about $4.73), and the catalog is initially launching with 2 million tracks, including Russian and non-Russian music.
The Vedomosti post quotes Rights Communications managing partner Nikolai Okorokov projecting that by the end of 2013 Unlimited Music will have 1.5 million active users.