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Napster on lots of PCs, claims stealth-research firm

PC Pitstop statistics state the obvious

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Here's an interesting item that came our way today. PC Pitstop - a kind of cross between Symantec and the Gartner Group - reckons that Napster is now installed on 20 per cent of work PCs and 40 per cent of home machines.

How does PC Pitstop know this? Because in exchange for a free ActiveX-based computer tune-up and diagnostic service, the company grabs and stores full details about your hardware and software. To be fair, PC Pitstop does admit this on its Web site, in its Privacy Statement.

PC Pitstop has been collating configuration data since March, during which time it has seen the number of Napster installations grow by a factor of three. Between October and December, for instance, the proportion of surveyed PCs that had the MP3 sharing software installed upon them rose from 17 per cent to 20 per cent. Over the same period, the percentage of home machines that had a copy of Napster grew from 35 per cent to 40 per cent.

So what does this tell us? Well, not much actually. The grow rates for both domestic and office machines is hardly spectacular, and PC Pitstop's sample is hardly huge. It surveyed around 155,000 home and office PCs during the three months in question, 140,000 of them at home, the rest in the office.

PC Pitstop also notes that machines with Napster installed are more likely to have faster processors, bigger hard drives, CD-RW units and high-speed Net connections than other users.

Again: surprise, surprise. Slow connections are less likely to encourage downloads than fast ones.

And while the kind of people who use Napster frequently are the sort of folk who tend to like owning top-spec. PCs, it doesn't follow that they bought that kit because of Napster, ie. that Napster usage is influencing the PC business as PC Pitstop suggests. It may be, but you can't really say so on the basis of the company's numbers.

Then there's that word, 'usage'. Finding software installed on a sampled PC's hard drive gives no indication of how often that software is used, even if it's running at the time the PC was tested.

Again, that's not to say that PC Pitstop's deductions are wrong, simply that they're not conclusions that can easily be drawn from the stats.

Another example. PC Pitstop says: "The availability of broadband or higher bandwidth connections in the office [is] the likely reason behind the increased Napster usage in the workplace."

Maybe, but why then is Napster usage growing more in the home than in the office (five per cent, compared to three per cent). By that logic, you'd expect there to be far more office-based Napster users than home ones.

In short, PC Pitstop is jumping on the bandwagon a bit here, and its stats do little more than provide an opportunity for hacks to mention the site a lot. Which we've done. Cheque in the post, guys? ®

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