Lynne d Johnson

 

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10.12.03 08:29 PM

napster 2.0 .vs. apple itune's music store

I could sum this discussion up by stating that it's ultimately a battle of the platforms, but if you know me, you know I can't stop there. Though of course once Apple rolls it's music store out on Windows, it'll be more of a fair sparring. You could read what I have to say, or simply tune-in to the Napster 2.0 press release.

After attending the Napster 2.0 launch party in NYC last week, I must say that I was somewhat impressed. I'll go into what impressed me in a second, after I mention that Ludacris is a lot shorter in person than the presence he projects in his videos. Yep, that's right, you guessed it, Roxio got him to be a spokesperson.

I have to be honest and confess that I'm not the average music consumer, because of what I do I get a lot of music for free. I also tend to purchase a lot of mixtapes in order to keep up on the latest music trends and what's not on radio. But since I also write about the digital music frontier, I have to take these apps for a test drive every once in-a-while.

On first look, I wasn't so convinced. Both Roxio and Apple are supplying 99 cent downloads. But there were two things, no actually three, that got my attention. First it was the biz dev strategy. There's the relationship with Samsung, to co-brand an MP3 player. Not an immediate threat to the iPod, but let's take a closer look. You get a built in FM transmitter, so if you want to take the portable into the car and don't have a tape deck to use one of those cassette adapters, there's another option. Another feature that sounds delectable, is the inline recording capability. How many times have you wanted to directly record something to your iPod like you can on your MD? If memory serves me well, the device will also be able to play music purchased and downloaded from other legit services. The player is a little more masculine in form than the iPod, and if this were a Marshall McLuhan test of hot media .vs. cool media, I'm not quite sure which device would be pegged as which type of media. I played with the Napster player and it's quite similar to that of the iPod, though it took me longer to figure out menu navigation and whatnot. Both are sleek and light, but one is silver, which seems industrial and hard, while the other is white, and gives off the perception of easy and soft.

As Pressplay has somewhat been tumbled into Napster, after purchase by Roxio, there's a Gateway preload on the horizon. The PC maker originally had such a deal with Pressplay. This new deal, according to a Gateway press release, has the company "pre-installing Napster 2.0 software on its most popular desktop and Media Center PCs; later this year, Gateway will pre-install the software on every consumer notebook and desktop PC it sells." A similar move would be MusicMatch on Dell.

And finally, there's the relationship with Windows to talk about. Still, and though I have loved Macs (Apple's) from day one, call it a GUI preference, Windows is out in the marketplace in a higher ratio than Mac OS. By-the-way, Apple is set to announce its windows strategy next week. "So what's the deal with Napster and Windows?" you ask. Napster 2.0 will get a little engine backbone from Windows Media 9 and will be featured on Windows XP Media Center.

The second thing I found impressive, was that although not a p2p file-swapping app at its core, Napster 2.0 will feature community services. Members can browse and play other members' playlists. There is also a feature that enables sending a track via e-mail. For members, the track can quickly be added to your own music library and for nonmembers it means a 30-second listen. Nonmembers also get video-on-demand, and 30-second samplings of tracks when they try out Napster 2.0. The member's features might do a hellava' more, but I haven't completed my test drive yet.

And finally, I'm floored that Roxio was able to get the "Big 5" of the music industry to give it so much music to launch on its service. Roxio promises that the Napster 2.0 service will have 500,000 songs, that's 1/2-a-mil, and last time I counted, far more than any of the company's legit competitors. But hey, I'm not selling out Apple just yet. I'm still happy with my iMac, 12" PowerBook, and 5GB iPod, and though I don't use the music store as often as I should, I still think it's a formidable opponent. What I'd love on all of these services, is the option to purchase a product before it's even released. Could someone please add that to their premium services? I remember wanting the Outkast joint so badly, that I was looking for it on the iTunes store and folks like Jason had to remind me that it wasn't out yet. But why should we have to wait for an official release date? Wouldn't it serve the music industry to prerelease, like the film industry does with its various screenings in major cities. That's really the only way to create a buzz. But keep checking in, I'm sure I'll have more to report on the developments between the two music services.

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