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Napster offers service to AT&T Wireless users

The service lets users of the Audiovox SMT5600 smart phone download an unlimited number of songs for $14.95 monthly.

Napster on Wednesday said that Napster to Go, its fledgling portable music service, is now available to AT&T Wireless subscribers who use the Audiovox SMT5600 smart phone.

The service lets customers download an unlimited number of songs for $14.95 monthly.

In September, Napster, a unit of Roxio, released a beta version of Napster to Go, making the service available via a plug-in to Windows Media Player 10. The version of the service announced Wednesday is apparently also a prerelease version; the company says the service will "officially debut" with the release of Napster 3.0, probably later this year. At that time, the service will be available to a wider audience. Napster 3.0 will be compatible with a range of MP3 players.

"Napster was the first service to make the promise of the portable subscription model a reality, and today, we are taking that innovation to the wireless marketplace," Napster Chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said in a statement.

The SMT5600 smart phone, which supports Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, is capable of holding up to six songs. (It has a flash memory capacity of 28.5 MB.) With an additional memory chip of 128MB or 256MB, the handset's capacity can be further enhanced to allow for two or four hours of songs, respectively.

The SMT5600, which weighs about 3.6 ounces, is available through AT&T Wireless for $149.99 after rebates with a two-year voice and data service contract.

This is AT&T Wireless' second foray into digital music in less than a month. In October, the company signed a deal with Loudeye to sell digital music through a mobile phone-based store.

The SMT5600 isn't the only handset on the market that was designed with music in mind. Nokia's 3300 uses removable cards to store music, for example. And Motorola's E398 has a built-in MP3 player, vibrating stereo speakers and a color display for showing MPEG-4 video clips.

So far as other wireless carriers go, Germany's T-Mobile launched a music service for handsets this summer. O2 and Vodafone have also launched music services.

All are trying to mirror the tremendous popularity of Apple Computer's iTunes service.