We’ve been watching Napster’s decline for some time, but now the company is fighting back with the introduction of a new download service that takes the market wars to Apple – because it’s made a move to drop DRM..

Napster has announced that all six million tracks it sells through its music service will from now on be available in DRM-free MP3 format, (256kbps bitrate). This means each 99-cents track will play on any device, including Macs, iPods and the iPhone.

What’s also significant here is that all the major labels have signed up to offer their catalogue through the Napster DRM-free service: EMI, Universal, Warners, and Sony BMG have all agreed to sell tracks free of rights-restriction. Having the majors on board means Napster is declaring that its service offers 50 per cent more DRM-free tracks than any other music service. And it’s an aggressive kick at Apple’s iTunes marketshare, where only EMI has so far agreed to sell music DRM-free.

"Music fans have spoken and it’s clear they need the convenience, ease of use and broad interoperability of the DRM-free MP3 format, and they want to be able to find both major label artists and independent music all in one place. Napster is delighted to deliver all of this and more with the world’s largest MP3 catalog," said Napster’s chairman and CEO Chris Gorog.

UPDATE TO ADD: What’s pretty sad about the company’s anti-iTunes attempt is that Napster has failed in one essential element: its online music store is incompatible with Apple’s Safari web browser….go figure… 



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