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RealNetworks Launches Napster Challenger

Streaming-media giant RealNetworks has launched an updated version of its Rhapsody subscription music service to challenge competitors such as Apple Computer's iTunes and Napster To Go. The new Rhapsody, which offers subscribers access to more than 1 million songs, will come in three flavors, one of which is free and provides 25 song downloads each month.

The free Rhapsody version, dubbed Rhapsody25, is aimed at those fence-sitters who are interested in music subscription services but have yet to take the plunge. "With the new Rhapsody, millions of people can now experience and share digital music legally, and with no strings attached," RealNetworks Chairman and CEO Rob Glaser said. "We think the new Rhapsody will transform digital music. What's more, we believe that once consumers experience Rhapsody and share it with their friends, many people will upgrade to one of our premium Rhapsody tiers."

The premium Rhapsody services are Rhapsody Unlimited and Rhapsody To Go. Rhapsody Unlimited replaces the original Rhapsody service and costs $9.99 a month. It's a traditional subscription service that lets subscribers download as many songs as they want and listen to them from their PCs for as long as they pay for the service. Rhapsody To Go costs $14.99 a month and targets Napster's popular Napster To Go service. Rhapsody To Go adds the ability to transfer an unlimited number of songs to a compatible portable audio player.

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