Digital music downloading service Napster Inc. said it recorded a 50 percent sequential boost in paid subscribers in the third quarter ended Dec. 31, finishing calendar 2004 with 270,000 paid subscribers, including 44,000 participating in its university programs.

"These results, combined with industry analysts' projections, continue to support our belief that the future of digital music is subscription services," said Chris Gorog, Napster's chairman and chief executive.

Napster is looking to take on Apple Computer Inc.'s widely successful iTunes and iPod products. In contrast to Apple's pay-per-song model, Napster has been offering a monthly subscription service since November 2003, where $9.95 per month gets users access to a 1 million-song catalog and unlimited downloading to their personal computers. Its new product, "Napster to Go," is a $14.95 per month service that will directly challenge iTunes.

L.A.-based Napster will announce financial results for its third quarter following market close on Feb. 9.

Napster's stock was up 0.4 percent to $7.22 in early afternoon trading.

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