News + Notes

Free Launch

Two new online music stores duke it out for downloaders.

So you thought free online music was dead. Or at least illegal. But both Apple, which just launched the iTunes Music Store for Windows, and the now-legit Napster, debuting Oct. 29, are promoting paid digital tunes by giving 'em away. Apple will deliver 100 million freebies in a Pepsi promotion (over one million Windows users have downloaded iTunes software), while Napster will offer five gratis songs to early adopters.

Napster, whose resuscitated service is Apple's latest challenger, shares iTunes' 99 cent pricing and some of its user-friendliness. But Apple VP Rob Schoeben scoffs, ''The Napster brand appeals to an illegal file-sharing crowd.'' And analyst Josh Bernoff says Napster will struggle without deals to match Apple's Pepsi and AOL pacts. Still, Napster (which will debut with a splashy Ludacris-headlined party) has a secret weapon, says COO Mike Bebel: ''Our name is synonymous with online music.'' Yeah, just ask Metallica.

Originally posted Oct 31, 2003 Published in issue #735 Oct 31, 2003 Order article reprints