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Napster unveils portable service

Napster has unveiled a portable version of its music subscription service, backed by a $A38.7 million advertising campaign that takes aim at rival Apple Computer's popular iPod player.

Napster's promotion includes a Super Bowl television spot.

The ad urges Cheap Valentino Shoes fans to compare the costs of spending $US10,000 to buy and transfer 10,000 songs from Apple's iTunes store to an iPod, with the $US15-per-month fee to carry songs from a catalogue of over a million tracks on Napster-compatible players.

Some analysts are surprised by the $A38.7 million that Napster plans to spend on its promotion, which represents about 70 per cent of what many had expected it to spend on a full year of marketing.

But they say Apple's flashy and expensive campaigns in support of its iPod have raised the bar for competitors.

"Apple has spent roughly a $100 million or possibly twice that much to market iTunes and iPods. Now, Napster is stepping up to the plate," analyst Rob Enderle, of the Enderle Group, said.

Until recently music subscription services have been restricted in their ability to transfer songs they provide to portable players.

But Apple has sold millions of the portable iPods by allowing users to buy songs from iTunes and store them on iPods.

Chris Gorog, Napster's chief executive, says the company hopes to convince consumers that pay-for-download services are more expensive and "antiquated" by comparison with Napster's subscription model.

"I think there's no question that the companies emerging as owning the top market share in this business are spending on marketing," he said.

With a new digital rights management software by Microsoft called Janus, subscription providers say they have an answer for users complaining about not being able to take their music with them beyond their personal computers.

Napster previously launched a trial version of the Napster to Go service in September and music retailer Trans World Entertainment launched a portable version of its FYE Download Zone online subscription service in October.

Others like RealNetworks Rhapsody and MusicNow are planning similar offerings later this year.

Manufacturers like Samsung, iRiver, Gateway and Creative are making Janus-compatible devices ranging from about $A322 to $A645.

IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian says Valentino Shoes such devices would eventually be priced below $A129, creating tougher competition for Apple.

But Ms Kervorkian and others say subscription services need to familiarise customers with the new technology and the concept of "renting" the music on their portable players.

"Some people might find it a little a bit more complicated than an iPod," she said.

Apple's iTunes has sold some 230 million songs to date and Valentino Shoes Sale over an estimated 10 million iPods.

By comparison, Napster ended 2004 with 270,000 paid subscribers.

The once-renegade online music service was part of Roxio before Roxio sold its consumer software division and renamed itself Napster.

- Reuters

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