Napster, the digital music service, said Tuesday it plans to attract more customers by moving to a Web-based platform allowing users to play their music from any computer without having to download any additional software.
The move is intended to open up the service and attract more paying subscribers by making the Napster platform more flexible and compatible with any Internet-enabled device.
Before now most Napster subscribers could only listen to their music after downloading the Napster software application on to their personal computers. This is similar to a model currently used by Apple's iTunes Music Store, which is the market leader with more than 70% of all
digital music sales.
"With this new platform Napster can easily be integrated into consumer electronics devices or integrated into other Web sites such as social networking sites," said Christopher Allen, chief operating officer at Napster.
Napster sells a subscription service for $10 to $15 a month where users can stream or download an unlimited number of songs from its 5 million-strong library. But Napster's and other
music subscription services have so far lagged behind largerrival iTunes, which uses a more traditional buy-to-own model.
Itunes sells songs as permanent downloads at 99 cents each.
Allen said Napster is getting set for a turning point in the digital music industry in 2008 as major record companies make more music available without copy protection software known as digital rights management (DRM). He forecast that, by the end of next year, the unprotected MP3 digital format will have become standard with major music companies and retailers. So far, only Universal Music Group and EMI have been selling music without DRM.
"When you can take the same tracks you purchased on Napster or other services and play them on your iPod or mobile phone, it will help to increase the exposure and the value of subscription services as the market opens up," Allen said.
Napster says it has 770,000 subscribers.