RealTime IT News

Dell, Napster Hit Legit Music Trail

In a deal that symbolizes how digital music providers originally intended to make a legal buck, Napster has joined forces with Dell to provide music files to colleges and universities.

Napster SuperPeer software will be deployed at the University of Washington's (UW) Seattle campus, powered by 10 Dell PowerEdge 1855 blade servers.

SuperPeer ferries music and other Napster content stored on a caching server located within the campus network. The blades, thin servers that will be set up by Dell's services team on the campus, will free up the necessary bandwidth required for mass file sharing.

The deal could open the floodgates for Napster because students, the chief culprits of illegal file-sharing when the peer-to-peer craze took off, can download files from their schools' servers without the threat of prosecution from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or government agencies.

The legitimization of Napster's brand in contrast to its days as a rogue file-trading program also means the digital music service will be virtually free of the viruses, spyware and other security risks that come along with illegal file sharing. The music may also be moved onto portable devices, such as MP3 players.

"In this era of pervasive broadband networks and extraordinary new personal devices, it is important for universities to establish mechanisms that provide our students with high quality, legal access to the growing body of content available in digital repositories worldwide," said UW President Mark Emmert in a statement.

Dell and Napster are also working together on sales and marketing. This fall, Dell sales executives will sell Napster digital music subscriptions to colleges and universities at a discounted academic rate. Colleges will be able to use Dell blade servers on campus to store music from Napster's library locally.

More broadly, Dell will help schools market the Napster service to students and will offer special prices on its three digital music players, the Dell Pocket DJ, Dell DJ 20 and the Dell DJ 30. These devices are compatible with Napster To Go, Napster's portable subscription service.

The agreement with Dell comes a year and a half after Napster announced the Napster 2.0 music service, which offers consumers downloads for just 99 cents a song or $9.95 per album, CD burning and shared play lists.

Napster's commitment to universities in the U.S. began shortly after the launch of 2.0 as the Los Angeles-based company inked a deal with Penn State University, which agreed to offer file sharing service at no cost to its students.

Napster expanded its university reach to include Cornell University, George Washington University, Middlebury College, University of Miami, University of Rochester, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Wright State University.

While the company has capitalized on its once notorious brand name at the universities where it once illicitly flourished, Napster has been busy making deals with major high-tech players other than Dell. Napster has inked distribution deals with Ericsson, Toshiba, Best Buy, Blockbuster and Gateway.

The company also has an echo of the new Dell deal in its past: SuperPeer has since 2004 used IBM's BladeCenter systems running Linux to cache Napster content in on-site servers managed by Napster.