Rhapsody will acquire Napster from Best Buy and perhaps that will – once and for all – kill off the most notorious company name in online music. I for one am glad to see it go. Napster was launched in 1999 by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker to promote illegal online sharing of music in the form of mp3’s. It was shut down in 2001, declared bankruptcy in 2002, was reborn as a commercial venture in 2003 and purchased by Best Buy in 2008. I always thought that was one of the worst decisions to buy a brand that a company ever made.
Now Rhapsody, in an effort to stay alive and compete with newer on-demand services like Spotify, will migrate Napster subscribers over to the Rhapsody platform where they will enjoy subscription based on-demand streaming, along with the ability to build playlists for offline listening, a feature that Rhapsody introduced earlier this year. Reportedly, Napster subscribers who were paying a cheaper, $5 a month fee will have to upgrade to Rhapsody’s $10 a month subscriber fee.
Rhapsody has 800,000 subscribers, about 15 million songs, and has been in business for about ten years. While they’re not huge, they are the largest on-demand subscription service. Best Buy paid $122 million for Napster in 2008 and will get a minority stake in Rhapsody in the transaction.
Napster openly and defiantly promoted illegal music sharing and caused a lot of animosity between labels and services, not to mention contributing to the “music is free on the Internet” mentality that is still pervasive today. There’s a real satisfaction in seeing one of the oldest names in online music finally put the brazen bull that caused so much damage out to pasture..
I’m a fan of Chumby – mainly because of its name. Chumbys are tabletop internet radios and a lot more – they’re actually tabletop internet ready devices, designed to be a digital photo frame and alarm clock that also allows you to listen online, check news and weather, watch videos, play games.
Last year Sony licensed their unique dashboard for its Sony Dash. Now Best Buy has a new device – the Infocast – which uses the Chumby dashboard as well. Its on Best Buy’s house label Insignia, sells for $169, and would make a downright smart conversation starter on the desks of Internet radio executives. It looks more than a little like an iPad if you ask me.
The Infocast has an 8 inch touchscreen that is larger than the Chumby or Sony Dash screens. It has access to Pandora and Shoutcast, New York Times, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Photobucket. It even has a sharing feature that enables folks to share apps, photos and more with friends that have similar devices.
CNET calls it a best of breed, and I’m thinking it sounds like a winner for tech savvy family members this Christmas.