- Review: Napster 2.0
by Brad Hill
The beta launch of Napster 2.0, an upgrade of Pressplay 2.0 by parent company Roxio, occurred on October 9, 2003. Napster 2.0 was promised to provide both a straight a-la-carte service and a hybrid subscription/track-purchase service. This review focuses on the hybrid service as experienced by Pressplay subscribers who are rolled into the new program. As is well known, Napster 2.0 bears no functional resemblance to the defunct Napster P2P client. The new Napster is an authorized, server-based, interactive listening environment enhanced by per-track and per-album purchasing. Napster 2.0 competes primarily with Rhapsody and MusicMatch, and secondarily with iTunes Store and BuyMusic.com.
* A fastidious client, laser-quick musical performance, and velvety operation wrap the user in a deliciously addictive environment. Rebranding aside, this upgrade could be considered Pressplay 3.0 — an evolution rather than a revolution. But a substantial and significant evolution it is, with an expanded catalog and streamlined interface that sets important new performance standards. Napster's generous interactivity blows away MusicMatch, and mounts a more serious challenge to Rhapsody than ever before.
* Value proposition of subscription-plus-.99-tracks is barely acceptable, and in fact inferior to the old Pressplay, where users could bulk-purchase tracks at a sub-.99 discount. Album purchases ($9.99) are the biggest change from Pressplay.
* Updated pecking order: Rhapsody, Napster, MusicMatch, iTunes Store, BuyMusic.com. (EMusic, always uniquely off to the side in these reviews, will fall off the cliff on November 8. MusicNet is unworthy of ranking until the next significant update.)
* Sign in to Pressplay; new version download required.
* Uninstalls current version of Pressplay; downloads and playlists not lost (promised and delivered).
* Installation Wizard includes setting download folder and connection speed. Highest connection speed (Cable/DSL) provides 96Kbps streaming (presumably of WMA files).
* A cleaned and neatened version of the old Pressplay. More than that, the Napster client is a marvel of music-program design, beautifully concise and a pleasure to play with. Six information panes coexist without clutter or confusion. This sharp and beautifully organized gem even makes Rhapsody look thick and musty.
* Can no longer detach Now Playing window. (Even though it's called a "Remote Control.")