RealTime IT News

Legit Napster Hawking 99c Downloads

NEW YORK - The legitimate reincarnation of the once-hated Napster digital music service is ready for prime time.

Almost a year after shelling out $5.3 million to pick at Napster's bones in bankruptcy court, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Roxio formally unveiled Napster 2.0 Thursday as a paid-download service hawking downloads at 99 cents per song and full-length albums for $9.95.

Napster 2.0, which is now running as a limited beta service, will be widely available on October 29.

At a spashy media event here, Napster executives showed off a slick new interface for the service that incorporates peer-to-peer functionalities for members and one-click shopping and download options.

As previously reported, Napster 2.0 will be available with two pricing plans -- 99 cents per song a la carte downloads running alongside a $9.95 monthly subscription plan.

Napster is using Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series technology for digital rights management (DRM) capabilities. For using purchasing via the a la carte option, Napster is offering unlimited burns and transfers to portable devices.

However, DRM mechanisms have been included in the monthly subscription plan to tether song downloads. At the public presentation, Napster executives made no mention of usage rules but a company spokesperson told internetnews.com that members opting for the $9.95 per month plan would only be allowed to transfer files to three PCs. Once a paid subscription ends, downloaded songs would no longer be available for listening.

At launch, Napster will offer about 500,000 tracks for sale via individual downloads, by monthly subscription, via Internet radio, or in any combination. The new interface allows users to purchase tracks from any section of the service (which requires a software download), including directly from the 40 pre-loaded radio stations.

Full length albums with songs from different artists can be personalized and downloaded with a single click, instead of songs having to be downloaded separately.

The P2P capabilities, which attempts to build on what made Napster a household name in the late 1990s, lets users e-mail tracks to friends and share playlists with other Napster users.

To entice newcomers to pony up and purchase music, Napster is giving away access to music videos on-demand. Napster 2.0 has also been built to allow members to import other music files from their hard drives into the service, enabling them to access all their music in one central location.

Roxio also plans to bundle the reborn Napster 2.0 service with its popular CD/DVD burning tools.

WMP INTEGRATION
In a significant win for Roxio, a specially created Napster 2.0 interface will be created for Microsoft's flagship Windows Media Player 9 software and added to the "Services" tab within WMP. The "Services" was previously the exclusive home for Microsoft-backed Pressplay, which has since been acquired in a $40 million cash and stock transaction.

In addition, Napster said users would be able to use WMP 9 to transfer songs to portable devices. General manager of Microsoft's Windows Digital Media division Dave Fester estimates the WMP software has been installed on more than 100 million desktops.

Just recently, Napster scored a placement deal on the upgraded Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004, putting the paid download music service before a potentially large audience. Napster 2.0 has been embedded on the second iteration of hybrid PC/TV platform to let music fans browse, sample and buy digital music by clicking on remote controls.

The company also announced deals with Samsung for a co-branded portable audio player that allows storage for more than 5,000 songs. The Samsung Napster YP-910GS features a built-in FM transmitter that lets users wirelessly transmit saved tracks - or an entire playlist -- to a nearby FM radio or FM-enabled stereo for playback on an unused FM station.

The $399 device also includes an FM tuner and encoder to allow the creation of MP3 files directly from FM radio or from a CD player.

In a separate deal with Gateway , the Napster 2.0 software will be pre-installed on every consumer notebook and desktop PC shipped for the Christmas shopping season. Gateway will also pre-load 150 on the hard drives of its computers.