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Napster's subscription service won't kick off this summer as originally planned - and when it does, sometime by the end of the year, it really will be a pale shadow of its former self.

That's the essence of comments made by the company's new Bertelsmann-appointed CEO, Konrad Hilbers, who last month replaced long-term 'interim' CEO Hank Barry.

Says Herr Hilbers: "I'm very much a believer in what Napster stands for, which is the sharing of music among friends and private consumers when it comes to making available things like my children's Christmas carol singing or a garage band."

Can't wait, can you?

His vision of a legitimate Napster appears to be a free trading arena for copyright-free material. We're sure there's plenty of good stuff out there that bands - and the Family Hilbers, clearly - will want to post for nothing, we can't see it ever attracting the number of users that Napster achieved in its heyday.

As yet, Hilbers has not decided how much Napster will charge for its subscription service. However, he implied it will be competitively priced: "It is quite obvious that we are challenging some of the music industry's business models, particularly on the CD pricing, with models that we are coming up with," he said. ®

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