2004: The Year Of The Online Music Stores; Napster Chief Slams Apple

As the battle heats up for online music services, 2004 stands to be a deciding year for the increasingly competitive market. While iTunes continues to carry a strong lead, Chris Gorog, chairman and CEO of Roxio (Napsteris parent company) warned music industry representatives to "stay-off the Apple platform" at the recent Midem International Music Fair in Cannes, France, according to the Mail & Guardian.

Gorog backed up his remark by explaining that more music players are compatible with Napster and predicting that its $9.95/month business model for unlimited streaming downloads will prove more popular than Appleis 99 cent a-la-carte service.

Meanwhile, Apple vice president Eddy Cue dropped an interesting new factoid regarding the iTunes Music Store: 95 percent of its catalog of 500,000 tracks have been purchased at least once. Cue also trumpeted that the highest spending customer on iTunes has purchased $29,500 music -- something that Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the crowd during his Macworld Expo keynote.

Perhaps most important to many of those in attendance at Cannes was the reiteration that iTunes, as well as Napster and other services, will soon be available in Europe. Differences in copyright practices, retail pricing, and differing release dates of albums from place to place are reportedly among the biggest obstacles online music services have had to accommodate for before they make the services live.