At the risk of beating a dead cat by ranting again about Napster’s Napster To Go scheme, I must take issue with the company’s CEO, Chris Gorog.
In an interview with the British publication,
New Media Age, Mr. Gorog stated:
“We’re confident [Napster To Go] will be the model the entire industry backs. It’s exactly what consumers want to do. Napster To Go is very similar to the P2P experience.”
For someone running a company bearing the Napster name, the current CEO has remarkably little familiarity with its original incarnation. While I agree that being able to listen to seemingly endless numbers of tracks is one of the benefits of peer-to-peer file sharing, the similarity between Napster To Go and the original Napster ends there.
Moral and legal issues aside, peer-to-peer demonstrates that what consumers really want to do is download free music by the dumpsterful and do whatever they like with it—make it available on college networks, burn mix CDs and pass them out to their friends, and trade it on other networks for music they don’t already have. I see very little in the peer-to-peer experience that hints that what consumers desire is to have their listening limited to a computer and single portable music player. And, the last time I looked, the web wasn’t smoking with demands for a service that disables that music when you fail to pay a monthly ransom.
Mr. Gorog goes on to say, “We’re going to be communicating to people that it’s stupid to buy an iPod.” The idea here being that—at least in Napster’s world—it makes no sense to purchase music from the iTunes Music Store when the music sold there is not compatible with players other than the iPod.
It’s about time that we put this “iPod/iTunes is limiting” nonsense to rest. In what way is Napster To Go any less limiting than Apple’s offering? The music from both services is protected by a digital rights management (DRM) scheme. Yet Apple’s is more flexible. For example, I can use the protected music I purchase from the iTunes Music Store in “blessed” applications. I can put it to work as background in a video I make with Apple’s iMovie (which, by the way, strips out its copy protection) or incorporate it as part of a DVD-based slideshow if I use Apple’s iDVD to create that disc. Does Napster To Go offer this kind of flexibility?
Oh, but wait, Napster’s service and its Janus DRM are compatible with more than one music player (but, unlike with the iTunes Music Store and the iPod, with only one computer platform). We’ve been over this before. Many of these players offer less storage for more money than the iPod and have interfaces that only a mother could love.
Yes, if you want to play Apple’s protected music on a portable music player, the iPod is your single choice. But, quite frankly, if I have to make a choice between an elegant music player that’s easy to navigate and one of a dozen that makes me work to find my music and limits me to a single computer platform—call me stupid—but I’ll choose quality over quantity every time.