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October 26, 2003 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Napster re-launching on Wednesday as a pay-per-download service. Anyone see this coming?
posted by Ufez Jones (40 comments total)

 
The only thing I know is that they tried this before and had to shutdown due to lack of interest.... wait, I am wrong... this company actually has nothing to do with the original Napster, they just bought the name for publicity
posted by gregb1007 at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2003


Other than the news articles and signing up for notification a month or so ago, no. Right now "Napster" just seems to be the same thing with a known name from the past.

Their animations [flash] for music categories seems to be the only good thing so far.
posted by rudyfink at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2003


Here's a good summary article by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. gregb is right, but Shawn Fanning is on board as "an advisor".
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2003


From the ajc article: "Selection: 500,000 songs"

Whoa. This could be big, essentially they're going to compete head to head with itunes but with a native windows app instead of that dreadful itunes Mac to Win32 port that wont even maximize. Anyone know if they're sticking to MP3s or moving to another format?
posted by skallas at 3:14 PM on October 26, 2003


I'm sure they'll be using DRM-protected WMA files.
posted by punishinglemur at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2003


Yes, Napster is using WMA files, which are, incidentally, not playable on the ipod.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:22 PM on October 26, 2003


"Dreadful i[T]unes Mac to Win32 port that won[']t even maximize"?

Game on.

I believe the Windows version of iTunes won't maximize because having an application zoom to take up all of your screen real estate goes against Apple's Human Interface Guidelines. (See this section specifically.) People who use Macintoshes like to have their applications work together—for instance, they like to be able to easily drag something from the open window of one application to the open window of another application. For this reason, there's absolutely no need for any Macintosh application to take over the entire screen. That would be counterproductive.
As for why Apple subjects Windows users to some standardization (is there any such thing when it comes to interface design for Windows platform applications?) your guess is as good as mine.
posted by emelenjr at 3:32 PM on October 26, 2003


They've been advertising this for a while. As for the iPod... they've got this player instead.
posted by dobbs at 3:33 PM on October 26, 2003


emelenjr: I'm using a Windows box. Not a Mac. Thus Apple's Human Interface Guidelines should not apply. And I, like you, enjoy having my applications work together. But this does not mean an option to maximize a window is counterproductive. Right now I am browsing the web and listening to MP3s. My WinAmp controls are in the taskbar, and Mozilla is maximized. It makes sense - why not use the whole screen when I'm only using one or two programs? When I do want to use programs together, I click the handy Restore button, and Windows brings the window down to a size of my choosing. It's extremely simple, and it gives me more options for managing my screen than I have on a Mac.

And yes, there are Windows design standards. Link.
posted by punishinglemur at 3:40 PM on October 26, 2003


I think iTunes's success or failure as an MP3 jukebox cum music download service will depend on rather more than whether or not its windows maximize.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:58 PM on October 26, 2003


dobbs:they've got this player instead.

Most MP3 players support WMA. I think the PC/Mac divide is going to be very important in deciding if Nap2.0 goes anywhere. Samsung hopes that co-branding will help sell their player but lots of devics do this already. (whether they support napster's WMAs is another story, but that usually just means another firmware upgrade)

iTunes demands a lot out of its Win users like getting used to the interface, AAC files, only supports the iPod, tries to be your one and only media player, etc. I would think many Win users would like to keep their existing media player settings and just save the new files to their MP3 folder and use standard windows file browsing to copy and paste WMAs to their cheap MP3/WMA players.
posted by skallas at 4:06 PM on October 26, 2003


"Anyone see this coming?"

Er... yes. Where you been?
posted by Blue Stone at 4:20 PM on October 26, 2003


The MS link is fine and dandy, but I wonder how many Windows developers pay attention to those standards.

What's probably the case is that Apple forces a bit of its HIG on Windows users simply because it's an Apple branded application. It's a pretty fair compromise, as far as I'm concerned. You've got your window widgets on the right where you expect them to be, you've got your application menus inside the application window instead of in a menu bar at the top of the screen. The Windows iTunes team did a pretty good job of working within the interface guidelines of both platforms, and still was able to turn out a product that works exactly the same way as the Mac version.

I didn't mean to threadjack and turn this into a Mac/Win debate, although I still maintain that the idea of having iTunes or any other Windows application take over the screen is entirely pointless. Let's get hypothetical for a second and say a Windows user has iTunes running, but is relatively new to iTunes and mp3s in general and has only added ten mp3s to his iTunes library. Listing those ten tracks takes up... carry the two... ten lines of text in the Library pane of the application. Allowing iTunes to maximize and take over the entire screen creates a ton of pretty, pretty white space. The same is true of someone working on a document in Your Word Processor of Choice and has maximized the window to take over the entire screen. They have the option to click that restore button to undo the maximizing if they want to get to a document that's behind it, on the desktop, or somewhere else, but that's an extra step. What happens when you want to drag something from the open window of one application into the open window of another appilcation? You can't do that easily if one of the applications has hijacked the entire screen.
[/OT rant]

Back on topic, it was a pretty stupid move on Napster 2.0's part to only deal with media files that won't play on the best-selling digital music player that already works well with both Mac and Windows. Apple would be smart to never support WMA files on the iPod.
posted by emelenjr at 4:23 PM on October 26, 2003


This could be big, essentially they're going to compete head to head with itunes but with a native windows app instead of that dreadful itunes Mac to Win32 port that wont even maximize.

From what I hear of the Napster software it's not only bloated and crash-prone but also difficult to navigate and very overbearing. Think of the worst qualities of the Kazaa (not kazaa lite) application only moreso. There are very very few Windows applications that actually do have good, clean UIs. And consistency has flown right out the window with the introduction of WinXP and its godawful attempt at cuteness.

iTunes on the other hand seems to run fairly well on my not-so-brand-new machine.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:47 PM on October 26, 2003


Re: emelenjr's OT Rant
Then don't maximize in the first place. Word, for example, remembers its state when closed, allowing me to never, ever used it maximized if I so desire.

Back on topic... I don't think Napster and the others have any choice but WMAs. There's no other DRM format with widespread support that they can use. And no, they can't use AAC, I doubt Apple is willing to license that out to the competition.
posted by punishinglemur at 4:50 PM on October 26, 2003


skallas, I only mentioned the Samsung player because it is a direct competitor to the iPod (20gb, portable hard drive, the same price). I was trying to be sarcastic--to me, napster not being port-able to iPod is ridiculously stupid, and, in fact, the reviews i've read of the napster/samsung player have been negative (song dropouts, crashes, poor reception on the broadcaster when in range of any radio stations, etc.).

and emelenjr, i don't think there's a "right" and "wrong" to the maximizing windows thing. i'm on a mac and i HATE the fact that i can't maximize my window. it's one of only two things that i can't stand about OS X, actually, and seems extremely illogical to me. You can't do that easily if one of the applications has hijacked the entire screen. nonsense. with one click you can resize to a draggable-to size. in other words, you have the option to work the way you wish. in OS X, you don't. i'd rather make that decision for myself.
posted by dobbs at 4:51 PM on October 26, 2003


Actually I'd pay to have someone implement a vertical only maximize in windows. Is there a UI tweak I can get for that? I miss it more than anything else when I'm not in OS X.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:57 PM on October 26, 2003


For similar music database-type functionality, try Musik. It's open source, even.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:58 PM on October 26, 2003


I should add that I will not be using ANY of these services because of DRM. I can't stand it. With a CD, I can rip to any format I want, and my song will be the quality I want it to be. I can have my music in any format I want, and I can do this over and over and over with absolutely zero negative effects on the quality (outside of one round of lossy compression), and still maintaining a perfect original. With these DRM services, they decide how many times I can burn a file or transfer it to my portable player, and where I can play it, and none of the services use a universally supported (by portable players, at least) format. I'm sure I'll come up with even more complaints against this DRM BS once Napster 2.0 rolls out.
posted by punishinglemur at 5:04 PM on October 26, 2003


I'm with punishinglemur. I cursed Apple when they announced iTMS because I knew it would spell the end of emusic. I'll go back to buying regular CDs before I use any of these new services.
posted by dobbs at 5:18 PM on October 26, 2003


.99 / song sounds a little steep for me. We'll see if this price goes down, up, or stays about the same.
posted by alumshubby at 6:50 PM on October 26, 2003


So far in this thread, Windows users who have bemoaned Apple's ruthless move to prevent users from maximizing windows have only said they'd like to have that option instead of having Apple tell them they're not allowed to do it because they don't need it. No one here has attempted to explain why maximizing a window so it hijacks the entire screen is even necessary. How does being able to see the working window of only one application at a time increase productivity?

The basic Napster service doesn't cost anything more than the price of each track, but for $9.95 a month customers will be treated to "unlimited burning (says the fact sheet. That's awfully generous.
What's going to happen when a customer's Napster 2.0 subscription runs out? Will all the purchased tracks still be playable? I'm banking on no, and that's one of the reasons why Apple decided against making iTunes a subscription-based service. The tracks are yours as long as you have them in your possession. Burn them to an audio CD, and that strips away the DRM built into the AAC format. From there, there's not much stopping you from making 300 copies of that CD.
posted by emelenjr at 7:38 PM on October 26, 2003


Purely from a user interface standpoint, the iTunes/iPod combo is pretty freaking hard to beat. I've never been a techno-fetishist, but the design of my iPod makes me feel all melty inside. The version of MusicMatch Jukebox that came with the iPod was an abomination--clunky, hard to use, unreliable. iTunes/iTMS/iPod all work together with a precision that is creepily well-engineered.

That said, I was a little pissed off that the window wouldn't maximize. emelenjr's argument of "why would anyone ever want to maximize an application in the first place?" sounds too much like the doctor's advice in the joke of "Don't do that." First of all, what is it their business how I use my applications? If I want to maximize everything and spend all day alt-tabbing, that's my decision. Second, after being a Windows user for the better part of fifteen years, when I double-click on the title bar of an application, I damn well expect the thing to maximize. Period. Deliberately confounding a user's expectations is, to my way of thinking, far more counterproductive than some Apple design expert's opinion of what I oughtn't be doing with my applications.

So there.
posted by vraxoin at 8:15 PM on October 26, 2003


How does being able to see the working window of only one application at a time increase productivity?

my last post on this subject: most of the time i work in a single app. i'm either writing, surfing, or doing something in photoshop. i make a point of doing thngs this way. i don't like to be distracted or multitask. i don't open multiple apps at once. furthermore, when i'm on the go, i have a 12" laptop. the size of the screen is pretty much as small as i want my window to be.

it can't be that hard to accept that people don't all work the same way you do, can it? it's like with anything--some painters paint on the head of a pin, others giant murals on huge walls. you're ignoring the fact that windows users can work like mac users if they chose (not maximized) whereas mac users can't work like windows users (at the push of a button anyway). how are more options ever a bad thing as long as things are kept simple? (and as mentioned above, i'm not a windows user.)
posted by dobbs at 8:16 PM on October 26, 2003


*tries a simple experiment*

Moves his iTunes window all the way to the left of the screen. Check. Drags the bottom corner so that it stretches to the bottom right of the screen. Check. Minimizes it when it's no longer needed. Check.

Wow, amazing stuff that is

I guess this is what happens when you can't fall back on the single mouse button canard ;)
posted by Space Coyote at 8:20 PM on October 26, 2003


Fair enough. My last post on the subject as I want to avoid being dragged into MetaTalk.

I never meant to imply that I couldn't accept that people don't work the same way I do (and I'm not exactly the master multitasker myself, either, I've just always found it weird how so many Windows users prefer to have an application window take up the entire screen.)

Just think of it in real world terms. You're sitting at your desk, you've got your computer, you've got maybe a book, some folders, and a cup of coffee, let's say. To extend the Windows window-maximizing metaphor, when you want to take a break from typing for a second and dig in a folder for some file, do you spread the contents of the folder all over your desk, on top of the monitor, keyboard, 1158-button mouse and coffee cup? Likewise, when you want to take a break from typing and take a sip of coffee, do you first pour coffee all over your desk so that your desktop is nothing but coffee? No. So you're only doing one thing at a time? That's fine, too. Do you need to hog the entire desk just to type a letter/surf the web/play Minesweeper/launch viruses someone e-mailed to you? Woe unto anyone who prevents you from doing just that, but do you really need to? See my point?

Silly, extreme example. I'm done.
posted by emelenjr at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2003


"Moves his iTunes window all the way to the left of the screen. Check. Drags the bottom corner so that it stretches to the bottom right of the screen. Check. Minimizes it when it's no longer needed. Check."

*as a snark*

given the highly-reported redraw/lag problems experienced ESPECIALLY when resizing itunes for windows, i wouldn't be surprised if most people would rather not use your method.
posted by lotsofno at 9:17 PM on October 26, 2003


I think this entire thread is a snark, actually.

I do hope apple improves the performance of iTunes, though. It's in their interest if they want to sell more songs. Though if people try out the Mac version and see how smooth it is by comparison they might be more inclined to upgrade their hardware and make the switch. Then again they've had time enough to make QuickTime's Windows UI a little less braindead and haven't gotten around to that yet either. Perhaps they need to set up a Windows Business Unit the way Microsoft has with their products, so they can have a team that's fully dedicated to producing top notch versions of their revenue-generating software for Windows.

I have to say, though, that all in all I am happy with iTunes as it is, and haven't used WinAmp very much at all in the last couple of weeks.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:44 PM on October 26, 2003


"We're sorry, Napster is not currently available outside the United States."
"The iTunes music store is not available in your country yet. You will be able to browse music and listen to previews, but you won't be able to purchase music unless your billing address is in the United States."
Wake me up when the at least half of the world can join the party.

Count me in as another who:

1. Loves the iTunes/iPod combo (even though I can't access either in full);
2. Has no problem with redraw/lag using iTunes at any size;
3. Maximises windows whenever working on a single application. Why waste screen space on something that you are not even using? It is simple enough to resize the windows when you need to work on two or more apps. To continue emelenjr's analogy, do you dedicate some of your desk space to things that you are not doing and restrict yourself to working in a section in the middle, no matter how much material you have to work on? I wonder if this issue is at least partly related to screen size? Do those of us who maximise use screens of 17" or less and those cool multi-tasking dudes have funky massive screens? I use a dual-monitor set-up at home and still maximise what I am working on (usually), so I don't think so.
posted by dg at 9:44 PM on October 26, 2003


Ninety-nine cents for a song is really not that bad. That's about how much you had to pay for 45 singles when they started disappearing from mainstream stores - actually, I think they'd been at that level a bit earlier. Of course, with singles you got a B-side, which usually sucked, but was often, if not an outright classic, at least a serious collector's item. You should be able to hear the clips in their entirety before buying them, however, just as you could in the better record stores. Even then, it was presumed that your average consumer heard most of the singles available on the radio. One of the attractions of the original Napster was experimenting because radio is now impossibly horrible in most parts of the country. You could listen to whole songs, and get to know the unknown.
posted by raysmj at 10:11 PM on October 26, 2003


From the napster T&C's ... Currently, the Service is only available to residents of the United States. . As is iTunes, as was parts of eMusic. Good to know that people in the good ole U.S. of A. still don't give a fiddlers fart about that parochial backwater they call "The rest of the world".

But heh. I'm British. And it's not like we've got a special relationship with the USA or anything... [Starts looking for new download service and some ANGRY songs to download]
posted by seanyboy at 2:42 AM on October 27, 2003


99 cents sounds pretty good to me - but you can bet when something like this finally comes to the UK, it'll be at least £0.99 per song, not $0.99, just to stay level with the extortionate price of CDs here.

Also, I still don't understand why I would pay the same price for restricted-use audio files that I would for a CD - which I can do whatever the hell I like with, including sell if I get bored of it.

(Also, on the maximise debate.. If you've ever used Photoshop, 3D studio max, lightwave, Visual Studio (or any other IDE, really), Flash, Illustrator or Cubase, you'll know it's madness to run any of them un-maximised at any resolution less than 1280x1024. I'm sure if you're twiddling about in web browsers, text editors and file managers/ftp clients all day then you won't understand the benefit of dedicating all available space to one app - but the benefits are there nonetheless.)
posted by cell at 2:48 AM on October 27, 2003


Maximise Double Click the title bar to (sort of) maximise the application.
posted by seanyboy at 3:27 AM on October 27, 2003


Not to continue the derail, but maximizing a window makes it bigger. So you can see it better. And you can see more stuff in it. Bigger. More stuff. Get it? It's not a cup of coffee, it's a window. Bigger window means better view.

As for Napster, name recognition is great, but you need a product that competes. So far the game to beat isn't Itunes, it's Kazaa (Lite). Give me something more stable, more reliable, with better selection, and a format that I can listen to anywhere without DRM and I'm interested. This is music after all, if what your selling is less versatile than a CD/record/tape (let alone an MP3), why would I want to pay for it?
posted by Outlawyr at 3:30 AM on October 27, 2003


You know, I don't think this is the kind of launch buzz that Roxio had in mind, if a thread about Napster's relaunch degenerates into a picayune discussion of iTunes UI issues. If the discussion is basically for/against iTunes (or for/against DRM, or for/against pay for download services in general without discussing them in particular), then they're fucked, QED.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:33 AM on October 27, 2003


I don't believe there's any other way to run Photoshop and many other applications like the kinds you mentioned on the Mac besides at "full screen", although I suppose you could close any of the mini windows you don't need. Still, there's a difference between how Photoshop looks maximized (note: ~600K 1024x768 .jpg file, a screenshot of my desktop) and maximized in Windows, where the desktop and any open files not related to Photoshop aren't visible. That's what I mean about maximized Windows apps unnecessarily taking over the entire screen.
posted by emelenjr at 5:54 AM on October 27, 2003


When I suggested that ninety-nine cents might be a little rich for my blood, I was thinking about how I have this backlist of stuff I used to try to pull down via BearShare and whether I'd really want to blow about $70.00 to get it. For me, downloading is like eating potato chips; it's hard to restrict myself to a small handful per serving.

I don't eat potato chips much lately either.
posted by alumshubby at 6:15 AM on October 27, 2003


This is an interesting marketing move, I think. (Prepaid download cards for people without credit cards.)
posted by dobbs at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2003


Simpsons did it! Simpsons did it! Apple did it first. Scroll down to the piggybank.
posted by emelenjr at 4:31 PM on October 27, 2003


But does Apple sell theirs in retail stores? Napster is targeting teens who only have physical spending cash.
posted by smackfu at 8:24 AM on October 29, 2003


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