(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Internet music download company Napster launched a Japanese service 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 will be offering more than 1.5 million Japanese and foreign tunes.
'As the second-largest music market in the world, Japan presents a very large economic opportunity for Napster,' Brad Duea, the company's president, said during a pre-launch news conference in Tokyo.
The Japanese service puts US-based Napster in head-to-head competition with Apple'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 Japan hits the market six months behind schedule because Napster wanted to conduct further market research and firm up local alliance with Tower Records, which will tout Napster in its stores.
But the company is betting that its unlimited download subscription service and plans for downloading onto mobile phones will help it make up lost ground.
Napster Japan is a joint-venture between Napster and Tower Records Japan, with Los Angeles-based Napster owning 31.5% and Tower Records Japan holding 53.5%. The remainder is held by an investment group.
While only about 10% of the offerings will be by Japanese artists, Napster Japan CEO Hiroyuki Fushitani said he expects the number Japanese songs to increase as Napster wins over fans.
Napster Japan hopes to outmaneuver iTunes by offering the all-you-can-download monthly subscription service.
Â© 2006 The Associated Press
Â© 2006 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved