Napster CEO: ‘it would be great’ if Apple iPod supported WMA

“In October, after a period of testing with 45,000 beta users, Napster relaunched as a legal download site with a library of 500,000 songs – ‘the world’s largest,’ Chris Gorog, Napster CEO says. It offers subscriptions for US$9.95 per month, or simple downloads at 99c per track or US$9.95 per album. In the United States, the only country where it operates, it’s in second place, a long way behind Apple’s estimated 75 per cent of the business,” Charles Arthur reports for The New Zealand Herald.

[MacDailyNews note: Apple’s iTunes Music Store has over 500,000 songs available currently.]

“This dominance by a company that has only a tiny slice of the computer market is [due] to its users: they’re just too eager to adopt new things,” Arthur reports. “‘We think [Apple users] could be as much as 25 per cent of the online music business in the US,’ says Gorog. That’s remarkable, given that there can’t be more than a few million machines able to use the iTunes Music Store. ‘In part, it’s because Apple were first to market, entered the market seven months before Napster, with a device [the iPod] that has trapped their audience so that there’s no place for them to go other than iTunes.'”

“Why should one bunch of computer users be so much more eager to take up this technology than another? ‘Macintosh users are historically early adopters of technology, and the online music business is still in the stage of early adoption,’ Gorog says… Yet even at this early stage of the race, Napster has a number of disadvantages compared with Apple,” Arthur reports. “It’s a lot smaller, and has less cash: Roxio has just US$60m in the bank, compared with the US$5bn or so in Apple’s. It can’t do the big advertising splashes. Its US launch was accompanied by small teaser cartoons using its logo. It can’t rely on a dedicated audience, as Apple can with its computer buyers. Users of the original Napster have migrated to new file-sharing networks, or just grown up and bought the CDs. And it can’t generate extra profits on selling associated hardware, as Apple can from the iPod.”

“Ah, the iPod – which, like Apple’s iTunes software, does not play files encoded in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, used by virtually every online music store, including Napster. Would Gorog like the iPod to support WMA? ‘We think it would be great!’ he says, which almost certainly means Apple won’t. ‘We believe that Apple is very vulnerable for the reason that their service is only available to people with an iPod,’ he says. (If you want to put music from the iTunes Music Store on to a portable player, you need an iPod; but you can also burn it to a CD.) ‘If you buy an iPod, you’re trapped in the iTunes store. That’s like being told that you can only go into HMV’s store, and never Virgin,'” Arthur reports.

“The weakness in this argument is that if both HMV and Virgin sell the same repertoire, who cares which store you’re locked in? What matters now is visibility,” Arthur reports. “Napster lost a big opportunity late last year: HP had been about to sign a deal that would put Napster on every HP computer. That didn’t happen – and instead in January HP signed with Apple to pre-install the iTunes software on its machines, and resell the iPod. Gorog seems unhappy when asked about the implications of this. ‘I don’t know what you’re referring to,’ he says. ‘We never comment on deals that were in negotiation; that were or were not in negotiation.’ Sounds like a sore point,” Arthur reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Good luck, Gorog. You’re gonna need a bunch of it. Still, flapping your lip and constantly trying to denigrate other services doesn’t sound like a valid method of trying to right your sinking ship. Try doing something productive instead. Begging Steve Jobs for iPod WMA support that’ll come the day before Steve fires up Windows Longhorn on his PowerBook G5 sounds pretty last ditch to us. Meow.


  1. iPod playing WMA = Napster’s only opportunity to sell music.

    At first, I thought this author was the New Zealand Rob Enderle, and that he was smoking the last of the LOTR set. But he seems to have taken the time to bust at least a couple of Gorog’s talking points.

    Hmmm…I don’t have an iPod, and yet iTMS is available to me. It must suck to have to play the role of ignoranus (one who is both ignorant and an asshole) for a living. He’s probably the kind of putz who’s own kids laugh at while they download music from iTMS and load it onto their iPod.

  2. I know, Delbert…maybe not everyone else knows?
    Anyway, this is part of a media blitz by such losers to try and dethrone the ITMS – I’ve seen more BS like this in the last two weeks – M$ money is undoubtedly behind this…they can’t stand not having control over everything.
    iPod, ITMS and Apple kick those loser’s ass.


  3. Have you ever seen so much FUD slinging in your life? Much has been made about the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field. It seems to me that the Chris Gorog Reality Distortion Field is considerably larger and stronger.

  4. It almost sounds as if hes looking for pity from the online purchasers so he can finish payments on something huge he bought when the store first opened. And whats with the entrapment theory? all the WMA stores are much more propietary than iTunes, how about sound quality too? Anyone who really cares about the fine nuances of music would die before listening to WMA. AAC beats the crap out of anything else except perhaps Og Vorbis.

  5. I don’t see Apple supporting WMA anytime soon. They need to put as much effort into winning this format war with Microsoft, they have a good chance of winning this one. They need to tell the public that ACC is the music industry standard(not just Apples), and that Microsoft is trying to make it’s “standard(WMA)” the standard. We don’t need Microsoft making it’s crummy “standards” on anything anymore.

  6. hi there;

    seems to me that gorog is trying to mislead the masses by saying that music from itms can only be played on the ipod. not true! any portable player that supports mp3s can play music from itms. of course, the music would have to be burned to a cd; then ripped to mp3 format–an extra step or two–but still invalidates his statement.

    i regularly play my itms purchases on my sony clie with built in mp3 player and a 512mb memory stick for several hours of listening. additionally, i have extra back-ups of all of my itms purchases.

  7. I would like to put in a word in favor of more confidence and less swagger. Yes, Apple is top dog, and yes, Napster people have no sustainable business plan, and are desparate because they’re going to go out of business in all probability. Eventually, more people will get it. But whether Apple “wins” is not a big issue. I’m happy to use any file format that isn’t WMA. That’s what this is all about. This is a battle of infrastructure. Microsoft wants to control the music infrastructure, DRM and all. File format is like the OS of music distribution. The most important goal is that WMA not become the de facto standard for music. This will take factual rebuttals, made in a rational manner. Triumphalism is not only a turn off to normal people, it’s foolish. Just because we’re winning now does not mean it will always be so. Forget this at your peril. We need to buckle down, and fight the real enemy.

  8. From PC WMA, to iTunes ACC, to iPod, to Powerbook 17″ all within 2 months. And it was iTunes and the iPod that made me return to Apple. Don’t worry I am not the only one

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