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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The New Napster: What You Need To Know

Not content with their subscription service, (although maybe that's what they really want to you to get.. more in a moment) Napster has announced it's own music download service. And, get this... individual tracks are $.99 with most albums being $9.99 Here's the skinny:

Library of 6 million songs
Great sounding / quick previews
Previews automatically go into the next track, allowing you yo easily preview the entire album.
iPod Compatible, and great sounding DRM-free 256 kbps MP3's.

But it's certainly not all good..

Not Safari compatible
Doesn't interface with iTunes like the Amazon store
The interface feels cluttered.

But probably the most bothersome part to me, and the most Windows-ish feature for those of us who try to avoid such things, is the signup process.

Here's a look at the first page:

Seems harmless enough: Enter a username and password, and continue to the next page:

Notice anything odd? The only two account preferences are for the two types of subscription services, which are only nominally Mac compatible. (these songs won't play on the iPod, for example.) So now what do you do? The only two options are streaming accounts. but if you back out of this screen, and return to the main interface, you'll discover that you're now a "Light" member.

It feels slimy to only have two streaming options to choose from, essentially cancel out of that screen, only to discover you now have an account anyhow.

The selection and sound quality are great, but like most iTunes competitors, the user experience is sorely lacking. This store is definitely a distant third to iTunes and Amazon, and all the songs in the world can't make up for that.

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