It took nearly a decade, but Napster’s finally managed to license music from all the major labels.
This morning the company, which once terrorized the music industry with free peer-to-peer file sharing, launched what it claims is the world’s largest MP3 store. An OS-agnostic shop, Napster’s new storefront offers more than 6 million tracks encoded at 256Kbps and priced at 99 cents apiece. The tracks are free of digital rights management protections and playable on virtually any device–including the iPhone and iPod.
With 6 million songs, Napster (NAPS) has the largest DRM-free catalog of any online retailer. Its selection is about three times the size of Amazon’s (AMZN), and while Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes also boasts a catalog of over 6 million songs, only a fraction of those are offered free of copy restrictions.
But really, does that even matter? Because as compelling as Napster’s new MP3 store might be, it doesn’t have nearly the reach or mindshare of iTunes–which, at last check, was among the most ubiquitous pieces of software around. And how do you compete with ubiquity? Certainly not by failing to support Apple’s Safari browser, that’s for sure.