Napster at Cornell, But Not For Macs

By on September 14, 2004

Cornell University isn’t playing nice with its Apple-toting students, and they are up in arms. Sort of. Cornell is currently conducting a beta trial of Napster’s music rental service, which only supports Windows 2000 and XP, leaving anyone with a Mac in their dorm room out in the cold. To make matters worse, the Napster service also won’t work with iPods either, which is making life difficult for a lot of others; around 50 percent.

So, in total, Cornell has picked a music rental service that one-fifth of its students can’t use, that doesn’t support the leading music-playing device and that will eventually add to already astronomical education costs. All of this so students can rent music for four years and then have their investment disappear as they head to the real world.

The trail is reportedly being sponsored by Sony, which of course sells its own hardware — computers and mp3 players — that will work with the Napster system, so one can’t help but wonder if the thing is orchestrated to to eventually make having a Wintel machine required equipment for students.

For now, during the trial period, the service doesn’t cost the students a thing, but if the trial goes well and Cornell buys into it, they will be charging every student $20 a year for it, whether they use it or not.

One thing in the Register article that really jumped out at me is the assertion that Mac users comprise nearly 20 percent of Cornell’s student body. How does that square with the popular notion that Mac users comprise only a single-digit percentage of computer users nationwide? And if that statistic holds true at other institutions of higher learning, I would think that the percentage of college-bound Mac owners would be a better indication of Apple’s strength in the marketplace than other figures.

Another thing that I find interesting is that it’s a music rental service… When the student leaves school, do the files he’s downloaded suddenly become unusable? I’m sure enterprising computer science students are already at work trying to break Napster’s DRM secrets.



  1. Aaaaah yes its back school time. And what is the most troubling issue on campus? Fees, Book prices, lack of teachers?? Nope music rentals. Sigh.

  2. I love DRM. It’s the art of pretending that it’s impossible to take a 3ft piece of optical cable and wire it from SP/DIF out to SP/DIF in.

  3. I love the new napster service at Cornell. I don’t have a Mac, and I only know one person that uses one on a regular basis. While the school newspapers might make a fuss about how Napster excludes some students, the service is free (for a year), and you can use it in the labs, if you want.

    But next June, the contract runs out, and (supposedly) the music will not play…

  4. I go to Cornell, and I find that 20 percent statistic hard to believe, as I also know only one person who uses a Mac, and I’ve seen computer labs with people standing around waiting to use one of about thirty PC’s, while the three Macs in the room sit empty.

    It is a music rental service, and the music won’t play without first verifying the license. My MP3 player wouldn’t play songs I had copied in from Napster (the player gave me a DRM warning). So, in all likelihood, the music will be gone at the end of August ’05 as Napster claims (and downloading rights will end earlier than that).

  5. An easy work around to this problem is to use a program that captures sound card output and pipes it into a newly compressed mp3 file. It’s not loss-less in the sense that it’s converting from digital->analog->digital, but it’s probably not going to be worse than the original encoding since you’re only talking about the correction done by the sound production of your sound card. It’ll require some tagging on your part, but hey, it’s free music, and you can’t stop this method without disabling users from playing back their protected music files, which would be a horrible music service, if you asked me;)

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, tweet @gadgetopia.