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Napster crossbreeds streaming, download plans

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Napster - the outfit that shares a name with a bygone music piracy pioneer sued into oblivion - is back with a new $5-per-month streaming/download hybrid plan following its purchase by Best Buy last year.

For a fiver a month, US subscribers can now stream music from Napster's claimed catalog of over 7 million songs as well as download and keep five DRM-free MP3s each month. Napster had previously been charging $12.99 for streaming music only.

Aside from the US-only aspect of Napster's new price regime, the big downside is that the streaming music is available only on a PC or laptop. At an age when when world+dog has a portable player or smartphone with online access, it's rather disappointing they're keeping it immobile. The company still offers a $15.00 per month Napster To Go streaming plan with certain US mobile carriers, but that's a different beast altogether.

To compare with similar services, Microsoft's Zune Pass service charges $15 for streaming music and 10 permanent song downloads per month. Rhapsody charges $15 a month for streaming tunes. The biz's 800-pound gorilla, iTunes, theoretically charges between 70 cents and $1.29 per song download, although if you actually find a tune under 99 cents you should consider spotting Where's Wally on a professional level. ®

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