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.