• The Associated Press


Internet music download company Napster launched a Japanese service Tuesday aimed at tapping a growing market, the company said.

The service was to go live online at 10 p.m. Tuesday, offering more than 1.5 million Japanese and foreign tunes, Napster officials said.

“As the second-largest music market in the world, Japan presents a very large economic opportunity for Napster,” said President Brad Duea.

The launch of the Japan service puts U.S.-based Napster Inc. in head-to-head competition with Apple’s iTunes. However, the service is hitting the market six months behind schedule because Napster wanted to conduct further market research and firm up a local alliance with Tower Records.

Napster Japan is a joint venture between Napster and Tower. Napster owns 31.5 percent of the joint venture, while Tower holds 53.5 percent. The remainder is held by an investment group.

Napster is offering three different download options. One carries a monthly price of 1,280 yen and allows unlimited downloads to personal computers.

Another service costs 1,980 yen a month for unlimited downloads to PCs and portable devices, such as MP3 players or mobile phones.

The third service is an a la carte service that charges 150 yen per Western song and 200 yen for Japanese songs.

“The success of the service demonstrates not only the international capabilities of our platform, but also the international appeal of the Napster brand,” Duea said.

The new online company adds to Napster’s portfolio of services in the United States, Canada, Britain and Germany.

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