“Napster To Go… offers users a completely different model for buying and playing music, a model that Apple can’t match today,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall street Journal. “With iTunes, you buy new songs for 99 cents each. Once the songs are downloaded to a Windows or Macintosh computer, you own them forever and can do what you like with them, within certain limits. You can store them on multiple PCs, and copy them to an unlimited number of iPod music players. This has worked so well that Apple has sold more than 300 million songs. But there’s a downside to Apple’s system: If you’re a heavy music purchaser, buying thousands of new songs will cost thousands of dollars.”
“Napster To Go also allows you to download songs and to copy them onto a portable player. But Napster To Go doesn’t charge for each song; in fact, Napster doesn’t really sell them to you. Instead, it rents the music, for a monthly subscription fee of $14.95. As long as you pay the monthly fee, you can download as many tracks as you want. So, if you’re inclined to download thousands of tracks, you’re not out thousands of dollars,” Mossberg reports. “Apple has scoffed at the rental/subscription model. But if it takes off, the computer maker may be forced to respond with its own subscription service. I’ve been testing Napster To Go with one of the best compatible players, the iRiver H10. The Napster software used to access the service isn’t as well designed, or as simple to use, as iTunes; and none of the compatible players is as good as an iPod.”
“There is one huge downside to the Napster approach. If you stop paying your monthly fee, the music dies… [And] Napster can be far more confusing to use than iTunes. Not all songs can be rented. Some can only be purchased. Others can only be rented, and not purchased,” Mossberg reports. “The Napster software is also clumsier than iTunes. You can’t see the status of downloads or of song transfers to a portable player without switching to a separate window. Searching for music, and creating playlists, is more awkward than in iTunes.”
“Also, in my tests of Napster To Go on three different PCs, I ran into repeated problems transferring rented songs to the iRiver player. Several times the transfer process choked, and I had to quit and start over. In one case, I received a mystifying error message that read: ‘I/O operation has been aborted because of either a thread exit or an application request.’ I have never had such problems with iTunes,” Mossberg reports. “Still, Napster To Go offers a real alternative to Apple’s offering. It will be interesting to see how the market responds.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: So, if the subscription model takes off, Apple could add the subscription option to iTunes Music Store, which would be cross-platform, working on Macs and Windows PCs and also iPods – unlike Napster To Go. That would leave Napster up the iRiver without a paddle.