Last night Sonos -- the company whose streaming music system has the highest score ever on CNET.co.uk -- added Napster's 5 million song catalogue to each and every Sonos music system via a firmware update. The deal means a £9.95 fee every month to Napster gets you unlimited, on-demand access to millions of tracks without the need for a computer.
We strong recommend checking out our Sonos Music System for yourself in our review, since the hardware hasn't changed since its release two years ago. In a nutshell, a central hub sits on your home network, to which your PC is also connected. Via a wireless controller with a colour LCD screen, you can browse your complete music collection by album, artist, song or genre. This music is then transmitted to ZonePlayer wireless speakers around the house.
Now, with Napster's inclusion, not only is your private collection browsable, but so is Napster's. Ten quid says theirs is bigger than yours.
We chatted with Sonos CEO John MacFarlane about Napster last night. We asked whether Napster's integration with the Sonos music system eliminates the need for a private collection, to which he answered, "Yes, absolutely." Quite surprising, considering the exclusive use of streaming music means you'd have no portable music, no hard backups and no CDs to take to a party. However, with 5 million songs at your fingertips, there's no reason to have parties anywhere but your own house.
Sonos also announced the ZoneBridge BR100 -- effectively a Wi-Fi repeater -- that extends the range of the Wi-Fi signal transmitted by the Sonos base station to other ZonePlayers around the home. For a in-depth look at how all this works, be sure not to miss our review.
The Napster software is now included in all new Sonos systems and existing systems can be upgraded for free when connected to an active Internet connection. -Nate Lanxon
Update: A previous version of this story wrongly claimed Napster's monthly fee was £5, and has been corrected accordingly. We also suggested that Napster may increase its library's bit rate to 320Kbps in the next 12 months -- Sonos contacted us to deny that this was the case. We apologise for any confusion.