RealTime IT News

Napster Re-Launch Gets Media Center Help

NEW YORK -- In a coup for Roxio , the soon-to-be-relaunched Napster 2.0 has found a home on the upgraded WindowsXP Media Center Edition 2004, putting the paid download music service before a potentially large audience.

Napster 2.0, which Roxio expects to launch before the holiday shopping season, has been embedded on the second iteration of Microsoft's hybrid platform to let music fans browse, sample and buy digital music by clicking on remote controls.

For Roxio, which will oversee the legitimate reincarnation of Napster as a service offering unlimited a la carte downloads alongside a subscription option, the Media Center integration gives it an edge on more entrenched rivals like RealNetworks, America Online and BuyMusic.

"This is terrific for us. It positions us nicely ahead of the re-launch of Napster in time for the holidays," Napster president Mike Bebel told internetnews.com moments after giving the media a sneak peek at the embedded Media Center interface.

Bebel was tight-lipped on details of the PC version, but said the new Napster would feature a simplified interface tied to pre-programmed radio stations and music videos.

There was no word on pricing for Napster 2.0 although analysts expect the service to cost about 99 cents per song and $9.99 per full-length album. Earlier this week, MusicMatch rolled out a pay-as-you-go digital download store for PC users with a business model that piggybacks on the success of Apple's popular iTunes service.

While Napster enjoys exclusivity, online movie rental services MovieLink and CinemaNow are set to extend their rivalry on the new Media Center.

General manager of Microsoft's Windows e-home division Kevin Eagan said the movie download services -- MovieLink and CinemaNow -- would also be embedded into Media Center 2004's new 'Online Spotlight' feature.

'Online Spotlight' will serve as a central location for third-party content providers. In addition to music, movies and news updates for MSN and MSNBC, Eagan said companies like WildTangent, Sonic Solutions, Musicbrigade and Live365 would serve as content partners on the hybrid platform.

Microsoft also announced the Media Center Edition 2004 SDK to let Windows developers build new software and services for Media Center PC customers.