Napster gunning for iTunes with DRM-free music

Does Apple have a Kick Me sign on their back or something?First Netflix fires a major shot over the bow of the Apple TV with their new Netflix Player set-top box, now Napster is going after iTunes with a new DRM-free music service.

Napster gunning for iTunes with DRM-free music

Does Apple have a Kick Me sign on their back or something?

First Netflix fires a major shot over the bow of the Apple TV with their new Netflix Player set-top box, now Napster is going after iTunes with a new DRM-free music service.

“We’re now moving from under the DRM cloud,” Chris Gorog, Napster chief executive.

Napster yesterday launched "the world’s largest and most comprehensive MP3 store" with a catalog of more than six million songs. Most songs are available at 256kbps bit rate with high resolution album art for $0.99 each, with most albums selling for $9.95. Apple can still claim to be the world's largest digital music store, Napster just has more MP3s.

The main advantage of DRM-free music is the ability to play it on any device or platform that you want. Many songs currently being sold from the iTunes Music Store are encoded with Apple's FairPlay DRM system and can only be played back on an iPod or iPhone authorized by the purchaser to do so. Of course, DRM can be stripped by burning FairPlay-encoded tracks to CD-ROM then re-ripping them in iTunes as unprotected MP3s but most people can't be bothered with the hassle.

Subscribers to Napster's monthly subscription service will still be bound by DRM that requires them to be a paying member to continue to listen to their tracks.

Amazon MP3 became the first store to carry DRM-free music from all four major labels in January 2008. But Napster now beats #2 Amazon by a hair. Napster offers 6 million tracks and Amazon lists 5.2 million downloads in its offering.

Is should only be a matter of time before Zune, Real and Yahoo to announce deals with the major labels to sell MP3s. Will Apple be the last one to go DRM-free?

Oh, the irony.

[poll id=121]