Now under the stewardship of Best Buy, Napster is taking yet-another-stab at offering a compelling music service since its glorious P2P days of yesteryear. This time round the company is touting the combination of unlimited streaming of its 7 million strong music library in combination with 5 DRM-free downloads per month, all for a monthly subscription of just five dollars. “Music fans now have the best of both worlds”, boasts the press release.
While that’s a bit of an exaggeration to say the least, Napster’s new offering doesn’t seem like such a bad deal at all. Essentially, you’re committing to buying 5 tracks per-month at average industry prices, with the company throwing in its streaming service for “free”. There is as always a potential deal breaker depending on how you like to consume your music. Device support for the streaming part of the service is, for now at least, quite limited: PC streaming through a standard web browser and possibly, though I can’t be sure, home audio systems, such as those from Sonos and Logitech (Squeezebox). In other words, there’s no support for streaming through mobile phones and other portable devices. If there were a Napster app for iPhone, for example, that might be worth paying the five dollars for alone.
Mobile support in general is an essential component if we’re ever to be persuaded to move to a cloud-based model whereby our music collection resides on remote servers and is only accessible through the Internet. That’s something that competing services such as Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm and soon Spotify, already acknowledge.