Tunewiki launches location-based music network for iPhone

updatedThere’s a young startup called TuneWiki, that has a karaoke-like lyric and music synching app out for jailbroken iPhones and is the first commercial developer (that we know of) to release a demo of an app on Android, Google’s mobile development platform.

Tunewiki’s first product, the iLyricPlayer, sychronizes and scrolls user-generated and edited lyrics, real time, in multiple languages (English, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean). While a lyric synching application may not seem like much, there’s more to Tunewiki than originally meets the eye.

The company recently launched a “community” feature (see below), specifically for iPhones (but with an Android spec that’s also available on the web) that shows users a geo-located map — using the Google Map API — with dots signifying others currently listening to Tunewiki.

One click (or touch on the iPhone) and users can listen to the YouTube tracks of other users in the same region. No information on the user is displayed other than location and the song that user’s listening to.

We speculated that Apple wants to open up music on the iPhone front — but TuneWiki clearly has beat Apple to the punch. With users in 208 countries, and a location-based music social network that will cross over to Android (TuneWiki was one of the finalists in the Google Android developer challenge), it’s clear that this company is making a serious effort to change the way users experience music — across any device, anywhere, at any time (and for free to boot).

Not only can Tunewiki users sing along to songs (and find translated lyrics for music in English, Hebrew, Japanese, or Spanish), but they can now access songs just by browsing a map — a feature especially pertinent to the mobile music experience.

The community feature has officially launched in Russia, China, India, France, Indonesia, and the United States, while the company’s home country, Israel, is conspicuously absent.

For most location-based social networks, such as Brightkite, Loopt, and others, there’s an inherent obstacle in obtaining a network effect: Members are split across different carriers, so the user network is fragmented.

Since TuneWiki is an independent application, i.e., you can access it from any carrier network, it theoretically offers one big community. However, this assumes you’ve jailbroken your iPhone, of course, and going forward, jailbreaking may about to get a lot harder in some places (AT&T, for example, is forcing people to have contracts on their iPhones before the phones even leave the store, something that wasn’t required previously).

Since the service doesn’t share any friend data, it doesn’t matter whether or not the user knows another user within the geo-location — they can still tune in to each other.

The two co-founders are seasoned heavyweights in technology startups. CEO Amnon Sarig, who served with chairman and co-founder Rani Cohen in the Israeli Air Force, is also CEO of mSoft inc., a digital asset management firm that is the world’s largest aggregator and supplier of production music and sound. MSoft serves clients ranging from professional sports networks to major broadcast corporations as well as music publishers, according to the company’s website.

Cohen is a former investment banker with Credit Suisse and currently also chairman and CEO of Magnolia Capital in Israel.

The TuneWiki team comprises ten people spanning locations from Los Angeles to Ohio to Hungary and Israel. It’s not clear how many of those 10 are on the project full-time, but the company says it’s in business for the long haul — it wants to feature a TuneWiki app on every phone that has internet access and the ability to play music, no small task by any measure but certainly worth millions of dollars.

[Editor's note: If you're interested in mobile innovation, be sure to check out MobileBeat2008, VentureBeat's conference on July 24]

David Adewumi, a contributing writer with VentureBeat, is the founder & CEO of http://heekya.com a social storytelling platform billed “The Wikipedia of Stories.”


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