iTunes Music Store rival Napster has launched a new Web site that lets PC and Mac users listen to music for free. The company’s premium service remains PC compatible-only, however, and its Napster To Go service still does not work with Apple’s iPod.
The free ad-supported service enables you to listen to most of the two million plus songs on Napster without having to submit any credit card information, but there are limitations: You can only listen to songs five times. On the sixth time, the Web-based player restricts you to a thirty-second clip only, unless you sign up for a Napster membership.
The audio is low-quality, delivered in .swf Flash format at 32 kilobits per second (Kbps) — by comparison, the music you buy or subscribe to from the Napster store is delivered at 128 or 192Kbps. Because the music is delivered as a streaming Flash file, you can’t easily download it to a computer, burn it to CD or transfer it to a portable music player.
The free service works with various Web browsers on Mac OS X, Linux and Windows operating systems, according to Napster.
Like the iTunes Music Store, Napster has an a la carte service that lets you buy music and download it to your computer or digital music player for $0.99 per track. Unlike iTunes, Napster is Windows-compatible only and does not work with the popular Apple iPod.
Napster also offers a monthly subscription service for $9.95 per month, as well as Napster To Go, a second subscription service priced at $14.95 per month that lets you download music to a digital music player and listen to it for as long as you maintain your subscription.