Napster 2.0 by Christmas

No Macs allowed

California-based Roxio will later today announce key elements of its launch strategy for the new Napster music service in a keynote address at Jupiter's Plug-In conference in New York.

To drum up excitement, Roxio has already leaked some details about the service, which will be available to consumers by Christmas. Users have access to more than 500,000 tracks any way they choose; by paying for individual downloads, by monthly subscription, via Internet radio, or in any combination.

"Napster 2.0 is being built from the ground up to reflect the essence of independence and innovation that the brand is known for," says Roxio CEO Chris Gorog. "Consumers want flexibility, and for the first time they will not have to choose between downloads or subscriptions."

Napster has extensive content agreements with the five major record labels, as well as the top independents. The service will deliver access to one of the largest music catalogues, featuring artists from Eminem and Miles Davis to the Dixie Chicks and Bob Marley. The Napster site is already in anticipation mode by showing lively animations of its logo.

No details yet about prices or international availability. What we can tell, however, is that the service will be available for PC users only. Mac users have to wait, even though Napster's parent company has just released a Mac version of its image editing software, PhotoSuite.

Roxio is a spin-off of data storage firm Adaptec Inc. and is best known for its CD burning software. Its code is shipped inside tens of millions of Microsoft's based PCs. Roxio's CEO Gorog used to work for Universal and Disney, and had good relations with the music industry even before he acquired Napster.

Roxio bought the rights to the Napster name for $5m after it was shut down by copyright-infringement lawsuits from major record companies and music publishers. It also acquired Pressplay, a joint venture of Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, in May this year.

Just last week, Roxio added eLabs president Larry Kenswil to its board. eLabs is the new-media and technologies division of Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group. Kenswil will be responsible for overseeing the company's efforts in new formats and e-commerce as well as developing strategies for protecting copyrights in the digital domain. He is also on the board of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who used to be one of Napster's main enemies.

Meanwhile, Napster creator Shawn Fanning is looking for backers of technology he's developing that would let file-sharing networks distribute music without violating copyrights. Apparently, there's little competition for Napster. Fanning was a consultant for Roxio earlier this year. ®

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