New Napster launches as Windows iTunes nears -- A legal (not free) version of the service has begun beta testing, with an official launch set for Oct. 29

By Brian Hiatt
Updated October 01, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Napster’s back — but it’s not free this time. The race to duplicate the success of Apple’s iTunes Music Store in the larger Windows market heated up on Thursday with the announcement of an Oct. 29 launch for Napster 2.0 — the new, legal version of the service that revolutionized online music. Meanwhile, Apple has scheduled an Oct. 16 press conference that will almost certainly see the announcement of the Windows incarnation of iTunes, which has sold more than 10 million songs since its debut in May. That success has convinced many industry skeptics that music fans will, in fact, pay for digital music.

Like iTunes, the new Napster will offer songs for 99 cents each, and albums for $9.95. But the service, which claims a library of more than 500,000 tracks, will also offer a premium service for $9.95 a month that offers unlimited streams and downloads (a competing service, RealNetworks’ Rhapsody, offers unlimited streams for the same price). Cheapskates will have to settle for free music videos and 30-second song clips.

The original Napster — the predecessor of currently popular file-sharing services like Kazaa — was, in effect, sued out of existence by the major record labels. Consumer electronics company Roxio bought the name, and also purchased the major-label-owned service Pressplay, using its library as the backbone for the new Napster. Did we mention you have to pay for it?