Napster Wants to be Free

Filed under: — 12:46 am

Robert X. Cringely says in his latest column that Napster won’t survive as a paid service, which is probably right. Then he goes off the deep end and says that Napster is already bigger than television. Not only that, it’s saving the PC industry by selling people CD-R drives… and he calls it “The killer app for this decade.” I suppose he means the 2000-2010 decade. I hope he’s terribly, terribly wrong, because I’d hate to think that Napster is the best thing I’m going to see on a computer for the next nine years. Bob’s suggestion for replacing subscriptions? Pay record company royalties with a surcharge on CD-R sales. This is certainly an idea the record companies have had before, but I’m surprised to see Bob jumping on the bandwagon. Listen, Bob. I own two CD burners and bought over 200 CD-Rs last year. I use them for all sorts of things: backups, recordings of my own music, and compilations of others’ music. But I haven’t used a single one for recording music downloaded from Napster or anywhere else. Why should I pay for the people who do? And for that matter, do a majority of the Napster users burn CDs with their downloads? I don’t think so. I certainly don’t think they will in five years, with the rise of portable MP3 players. He is right about one thing: As soon as Napster starts charging money, most of its userbase will disappear and all sorts of free Napster-like programs will take its place. Does he really think that the same people who won’t pay Napster $5.00 a month are going to save the PC industry by spending hundreds of dollars on CD-R drives? As for Napster, I think the subscriptions are a good idea. The record companies will stop bothering them and some users will stay, and they’ll have a small but steady stream of income. Without subscriptions, Napster is just another doomed dot-com: A million users taxing the servers and no visible means of support. As for Bob, I’m hoping he’ll be back to his old self after a good night’s sleep.

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(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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