Over the last day or so, lots of blogs covering Windows Phone 7 and other mobile devices/gadgets, including big-hitters like Engadget, Boy Genius Report, Wired and Pocket-Lint have been reporting Last.fm's announcement that they're bringing free streaming to an end on all platforms other than the web and Windows desktop client, with the exception on Xbox360 and Windows Phone 7.
That seems to be diametrically opposed to the email message that Last.fm sent direct to me and other users of their WP7 app, which was:
From February 15 you will need to be a subscriber to listen to Last.fm Radio stations on devices, including your Windows Phone 7 app.
I tried to work out what was going on here, and the best that I can see is that the email message was wrong (which is odd).
The Last.fm FAQ on this says:
Microsoft X-Box Live (also with Kinect) - App free with X-Box Live Membership in US and UK Microsoft Windows Mobile 7 - Free in 2011 in US and UK; subscription required for radio in Germany
Wired did a Q&A with Last.fm's Matthew Hawn, who said:
...they are free-to-their users specifically because MS has subsidised the radio experience. This is no different than a mobile carrier choosing to subsidise an experience for their customers too. Xbox Live customers are paying for a great set of gaming experiences and Last.fm was a great fit for them. We see the Kinect Last.fm experience as an excellent one. And it is also ad-supported.
So that clears it up then. Microsoft clearly has that deal in place for the remainder of the year; whether it continues beyond that will remain to be seen, although since Last.fm is built in to the Xbox360 dashboard, I don't expect they'll want that to be an inconsistent experience going forward (unless they decide they want to have Xbox owners getting their music via Zune Pass in future).
For their part, Last.fm must have thought that I was in Germany, or at least somewhere outside the UK/US. Me and a number of other WP7 users who also posted in the comments on multiple blogs that they received the same message. In fairness, I have since checked, and although I had the correct timezone set and a .uk email address, my profile didn't have my country saved. I've now updated it, so hopefully they'll know that I can carry on listening on WP7 without subscribing.