So Napster have announced the details of their UK music service. This is the first of what should be a series of landmark announcements from digital music services in the UK. Over the last months UK music fans have been looking enviously over their shoulders at their US cousins and the degree of choice theyíve had for online music services and stores. And OD2 did their bit to gatecrash Napsterís party by announcing that they are offering tracks at half price.
The irony is that by the end of the year UK music fans could well end up with more choice than Americanís. In addition to Napster UK consumers will be able to choose between various OD2 powered services, Virginís MusicNet powered service, Appleís iTune store, Sonyís Connect service, Wippit, PlayLouder, Mean Fiddler and (probably) what may be the dark horse: MSN. Thatís of course not even mentioning the sleeping giants of the retailers.
What is crucial about Napsterís service is that it allows portability for all itís purchased content. i.e. that if you buy a track you can burn it to CD and transfer to a (WMA supporting) device. The role of portable music devices in edging online services towards the mainstream cannot be exaggerated. There are consumers who use their PC as their home stereo, but they are not the majority of music fans. People like to own and move their music, sometimes just from their living room to their bedroom sometimes miles away. Thatís why this next generation of services are so important and why OD2 will have to move quickly to ensure that they can build upon their current market leading position and not be left behind.