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XM Teams With Napster

Washington — Napster and XM Satellite Radio today announced a new online service called XM + Napster that will allow the digital purchase of songs aired on XM as well as from Napster’s catalog.

XM + Napster will be the exclusive integrated service for XM digital music downloading, said XM.

The service is expected to launch in the fourth quarter this year in conjunction with new Samsung XM/MP3 players announced earlier this week.These devices store XM songs in memory in addition to storing MP3 music files; they can also bookmark an XM song. When the Samsung player is connected to a PC, the XM + Napster service matches the bookmarked XM song titles with Napster’s music catalog so the user may purchase them.

The XM + Napster service offers the benefit of managing both XM and MP3 files in a single site, said XM. It will also allow users to listen to XM Radio Online, XM’s Internet service.

XM subscribers can pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited Napster tracks or they can purchase individual songs.

XM hinted that its alliance with Samsung might lead to other joint Samsung and XM products, including cellular phones. “We’ve been stating for the better part of this year that we will participate in the cellular phone industry, but we’ve declined to describe when and how. But the fact is we’re headed down that path, and Samsung is one of the leading cellular phone suppliers in the U.S. and the world, so there is an opportunity for us to expand the XM alliance with Samsung,” said XM’s product marketing and distribution senior VP, Dan Murphy.

April Horace, analyst at Hoefer & Arnett, Denver, called the XM alliances “another step in the right direction to accommodate all types of listeners and their listening habits.” She also noted that XM is capitalizing on its technology lead over Sirius, as XM is presently a generation ahead in chipset technology and therefore has smaller chips that can be embedded in MP3 or other devices.

When asked if Sirius has similar plans to align with an online music service and MP3 supplier, a Sirius spokesman said it had no comment at this time.

XM affirmed that it had talked to Apple regarding a similar alliance but Apple declined to pursue an alliance with satellite radio.

XM said it is targeting both older users who don’t have time to sift through playlists online and also younger people “who want XM, but also want to play MP3 files,” said Murphy.