Napster Sells Out…to Best Buy

By  |  Monday, September 15, 2008 at 10:34 am

I like to call today’s Napster “Napster,” since it has little in common with the legendary service that bore the same name other than music. It hasn’t been a hit. But now it’s getting another shot at success.

Best Buy Snaps Up Napster
The country’s biggest consumer electronics retailer just spent $121 million to buy Napster, the subscription music service that borrowed its name from Shawn Fanning’s P2P service but hasn’t been able to convince anywhere near as many people to pay for their songs. As music inevitably goes entirely digital, I see why Best Buy would want to be involved–it’s not going to be all that long until those rows of CDs in its stores are just gone. But it’s hard not to think that Napster in its current, non-iPod-compatible form is doomed, and unlike archrival Rhapsody, it hasn’t launched a DRM-free music store. I’m guessing Best Buy is interested less in Napster in its current form and more in the potential of the technology to power services yet to come.
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Buy Once, Play Anywhere?
Best Buy, Microsoft, Sony, Intel, and other companies involved in consumer electronics are teaming to form something called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. The goal is to let consumers buy movies and other content once, and then play them on a variety of devices. At first blush, the idea is appealing, but it’s hard not to be cynical skeptical about any initiative which involves what sounds like a new and complicated form of DRM. And Apple isn’t part of the group–and it seems unlikely that it’ll join, since it probably just isn’t in Steve Jobs’ DNA to get involved in a form of DRM that his company doesn’t control. “Buy once, play everywhere except on anything made by Apple” just doesn’t sound that compelling.
Read more at: Ars Technica

Podcaster Gets Onto the iPhone
The iPhone community is still in an uproar over Apple’s apparent rejection of an app called Podcaster on the grounds that it duplicates functionality in iTunes. Now Podcaster’s developer is using Ad-Hoc Distribution, a feature designed by Apple to let enterprises put custom applications onto iPhones, to distribute his program to folks who make a $9.99 donation. I’ve ponied up the money and will let you know what transpires; I find it hard to believe, though, that Apple won’t figure out a way to prevent end runs around the App Store by anyone whose program gets rejected.
Read more at: ReadWriteWeb

A Handheld That Does E-Mail–and Just E-Mail
Peek is a new handheld device that looks kinda like a BlackBerry and lets you do e-mail. And that’s all it does–you can’t make a phone call or instant message or listen to music on the thing. In other words, it’s a bit like the BlackBerries of a decade ago. The device’s manufacturer says it’s targeting folks who don’t want the cost or complexity of a smartphone with a data plan. My instinct is to be skeptical of its chances for success, since there’s a long history of e-mail-only devices that haven’t gone much of anywhere. (Anyone remember the MailStation?) But Peek apparently does what it does well, and I admire the guts of anyone who tries to make a go of it with a product that’s not the same ol’ same ol’.
Read more at: SF Gate

The Father of the Web Starts a Foundation
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is one of my heroes. How could he not be? The guy is the living embodiment of the potential of the Internet to make the world a better place, and he aims to do just that with the World Wide Web Foundation. The new organization, launched with a $5 million grant, hopes to ensure that the Web is free, open, and robust, and to spread it to everybody on the planet. In a speech announcing the project, Berners-Lee noted that 80 percent of human beings are said not to have access to the Web. That’s both alarming and exciting–for all the things the Web has done to change the world for the better, it’s got infinite potential to do even more in the decades to come.
Read more at: Cnet

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