Roxio gives peek at legalized Napster

P2P ditched in favor of 99¢ downloads

Sharing little in common with its original iteration besides the name, Napster has given up its P2P roots and is joining the crowded legal digital music space.

Digital media software company Roxio, which acquired Napster last year, previewed the new service Thursday. It will launch Oct. 29.

Like competitors such as iTunes and MusicMatch, Napster will offer music downloads at 99¢ per track and $9.95 per album. In addition, it will have a subscription component priced at $9.95 per month allowing unlimited listening of songs in its library, community features and interactive radio.

In a sign that Napster 2.0 will face fierce competition, however, Apple announced Thursday that it will hold an event next week at which “the year’s biggest music story is about to get even bigger.” That most likely means the imminent launch of iTunes for Windows, which will join Napster and recently launched MusicMatch in the digital music download market for PCs. Napster is one of the biggest names in the digital music world, however, and has the advantage of the largest library of any online music service, launching with 500,000-plus songs.

Technology behind Napster 2.0 is based on Pressplay, the online music service owned by Sony Music and Universal Music that largely flopped and was acquired by Roxio for $39.5 million in the spring.

Despite the crowded market, good news for Napster 2.0 and its competitors is that the tough legal line adopted by the Recording Industry Assn. of America of late seems to be spurring consumer interest in legal alternatives.

Rhapsody, a streaming music service operated by RealNetworks, announced earlier this week that its usage was up 30% in September after the announcement of RIAA suits against individuals suspected of pirating tunes.

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