Napster in a broader context/MP3 pro/Windows XP

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sat Jun 16 18:57:01 MDT 2001

Slashdot ("News for nerds. Stuff that matters.") carried a very interesting
note on analysis of music monopoly mafia statistics on the best-selling
albums of all times.

In it, I found the following extremely cogent comments:

* * *

  Napster is effectively dead, but the concept it represents couldn't be
more different from the state of the retail music channel today. The easy
thing is to focus entirely on the free nature of the service as it existed.
You copied patterns of bits, and got a crude, sometimes skipping facsimile
of the music you wanted to hear, without paying anything for it. The reality
of this was so obvious, that it conceals other, more important aspects of
the situation, which should be of more concern to the RIAA.

  Napster, as it existed, was the ultimate Internet music store- and it is
crucial to understand the change in meaning behind those three simple words.
Traditional music stores offered a selection of music for sale. Modern
retail music is the result of a bitter fight to be included in a much
narrower selection- from top 40 to rack jobbers, every step of the way the
trend has been to reduce inventory levels, to stock fewer selections and
make it up on volume. This impoverishes choice, but choice does not
necessarily make money for the RIAA- sales does. Compared to that, only part
of Napster's appeal was current hits for free. The rest of Napster's appeal
was in offering something no retail store could ever offer- very nearly the
history of recorded music, searchable and downloadable. This is only a
slight exaggeration- compared to modern retail outlets, Napster's peak was
almost like having the history of recorded music at your fingertips. There
was much overlap, but if only one person with a certain obscure item was
logged on, you had it. The effect was of a store inventory hundreds,
thousands of times greater than any physical store.

  That this was compelling, that this produced a peer-to-peer craze that
even now refuses to die, says more about the Napster users than the simple
fact that they liked downloading inferior dubs of music for free. In earlier
years, Napster may have garnered much less attention- people could have been
disgusted at the many poor or incomplete files, people could have ignored
the whole thing knowing that they could buy the real CDs at a real store.

  But in the modern world, the consumer cannot do that: the pressures of the
music business have led to a wild constriction of consumer choice in
mainstream retail outlets, on mainstream radio- in every respect. The degree
of control is so extreme that it's no longer possible to buy stuff unless it
is mainstream, and record label execs forthwith proceed to study the market
and try their level best to produce composite, synthetic musicians and bands
that can appeal to the largest or most profitable sections of the market.

*  *  *

The whole piece is at the following URL:

The slashdot discussion is here:

*  *  *

BTW, there is a new version of MP3 compression that's just been released,
called MP3 pro.

Go here:

This new version gives you roughly the quality of a 128kbs mp3 file (or
more) in 64 kbit/s. It is not fully compatible with current players, but it
is copy protection free and does achieve rough parity with what is being
spawned by the forces of evil and digital rights management in Redmond.

*  *  *

Speaking of which if you were just dying to "upgrade" to Windows XP when it
releases in the fall and take advantage of such "features" as Micro$oft
having to approve every reinstall if you upgrade your computer and new,
improved and needless to say higher prices, you may want to start saving up

The *official*  requirements are up to a P-III/300 with 128MB of RAM, and
judging by past Microsoft requirements, you might as well count on having at
least P-III/600  or a Duron/Athlon, more if you want to run games or
processor-intensive applications. It may seem absurd for an OS to require
that much just to load, but remember all the user-friendly features such as:

* Built in digital rights management: Want to play Mp3 files? Maybe it will,
maybe it won't and maybe it will and rat on you to Hillary Rosen.

* Built in XML Smart Tags - Where do you want to go today? Microsoft will
tell you, by turning any word on a "link poor" web page into a link to
Microsoft content.

* Want to run your old DOS apps and games, or even obscure Win 3.X software?
Buy OS/2, Windows XP recreates the same experience of running way-too-big
apps from a floppy in an 8Mhz 8088 with 256K of RAM in a modern computer
with ATA 100 drives, 256megs of RAM, and an 800 Mhz processor.

Don't believe me? Sign up for the Microsoft beta program. It will cost you
$20, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the bugs you found
in the release version were actually spotted and reported months before.


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