After making big plays in North America and Western Europe, former P2P piracy powerhouse and current legitimate download service Napster has finally set up shop in Asia, bringing its war with iTunes to the world's second-largest music market: Japan. Although the Japanese store
is actually owned more by Tower Records Japan than Napster itself (53.5% versus 31.5%, but considering that Tower.com/Digital
hasn't exactly made a huge splash, the branding choice seems to be right on), the services offered are distinctly Napster, with the tried-and-true basic, Napster To Go, and a la carte models having been ported over for this implementation. The initial cache of 1.9 million tracks will come from a mix of Japanese and foreign artists, with domestic tunes costing 200 yen ($1.70) and Western songs going for 150 yen ($1.27) -- the same price that Apple charges for its wares. Besides the all-you-can-eat PlaysForSure subscription option not available from iTunes, the real draw here will supposedly come from Napster's partnership with NTT DoCoMo, which will eventually result in direct-to-mobile downloads (hear that, Apple / Softbank
?). Overall the move seems like a good one for Napster -- which may or may not be seeking suitors to help buoy its stock price -- and for fans of Japanese music as well, because now we know that our Kahimi Karie and Pizzicato Five albums deserve to fetch much more on eBay than the usual crap we try to unload.