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AT&T asks king's ransom for Napster tunes

Targets 'price insensitive' kiddies

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AT&T hopes to fool the youth of America into paying way too much for digital music.

Today, the big-name telco announced that it will soon offer wireless access to Napster, the subscription-based digital music service. But it's ignoring the subscription bit. AT&T is giving certain cell phone owners the power to actually purchase and download songs from the service, charging $7.49 for a group of five tunes and $1.99 for individual tracks.

Yes, that price is high. But AT&T's director of premium content Rob Hyatt is confident that "young music fans" won't notice. "They're very price insensitive," he told The Associated Press. We tried to ask AT&T if he really said this, but the company refused to respond.

That five-for-$7.49 option is nothing new. AT&T already offers wireless downloads from another service, emusic, at exactly the same price. But the company has broken new ground in selling individual tunes for nearly two dollars a pop. That's the same price you'll find on Verizon's V Cast service, but it's more than twice the 99 cents charged by Sprint.

Yes, AT&T provides the cellular network for the Apple iPhone. But no, it won't offer this ridiculously-expensive Napster service on Steve Job's latest status symbol. That would make even less sense. The world is still waiting for the iPhone to provide wide-area cellular access to Apple's own music download service, iTunes.

Of course, there are other means of shuttling iTunes tracks onto your iPhone, including local-area WiFi networks. And just like Sprint, Apple charges only 99 cents a song. So, with its Napster announcement, AT&T is ignoring the good sense of both a partner and a competitor. ®

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