The Japanese service puts U.S.-based Napster Inc. in head-to-head competition with Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod and its online music store iTunes, which opened in Japan last year and became an instant hit with the country's tech-savvy younger set
Napster launched a Japanese service Tuesday aimed at tapping the growing demand for music-to-go and catching up with Apple's iTunes in one of the world's biggest music markets.
The service was to go live online at 10 p.m. Tuesday, offering more than 1.5 million Japanese and foreign tunes.
Napster Japan is a joint-venture between Napster and Tower Records Japan, with Los Angeles-based Napster owning 31.5 percent and Tower Records Japan holding 53.5 percent. The remainder is held by an investment group.
Napster is offering three different download options. The basic plan carries a monthly price of 1,280 yen ($10.87; euro8.57) and allows unlimited downloads to as many as three personal computers. The Napster to Go service costs 1,980 yen ($16.82) a month for unlimited downloads to three computers and three portable devices, such as MP3 players or mobile phones. The third service is an a la carte service charging 150 yen ($1.27) per Western song and 200 yen ($1.70) for Japanese songs.
Between the basic and to-go plans, Napster Japan will go online with a total of 1.9 million songs, nearly double the 1 million songs offered by iTunes when it was launched in Japan in August 2005.
While only about 10 percent of the offerings will be by Japanese artists, Napster Japan Chief Executive Hiroyuki Fushitani said he expects the number Japanese songs to increase as Napster wins over fans. ITunes now offers about 2 million songs in Japan but runs only on an a la carte service at 150 yen ($1.27) a song. Napster Japan hopes to outmaneuver iTunes by offering the all-you-can-download monthly subscription service.