Dell and Napster Partner to Provide Legal Music Downloading Services for Campuses; University of Washington Signs On

UPDATED Friday, July 8, 2005

In a move that will provide campus IT departments with a legal alternative for music downloading, Dell ( announced this week that it is partnering with Napster (

The deal, which has the University of Washingon's Seattle campus as its first customer, will combine Dell’s PowerEdge 1855 blade servers with Napster’s digital music service to provide college and university IT departments with the network bandwidth to support student demand for music downloading. Coming little more than a week after the Supreme Court ruled that technology providers supporting illegal downloading are liable to copyright law suits by the recording industry, the Dell-Napster partnership provides a legal way to satisfy the campus market for tunes without risking network infrastructure or court actions.

The deal is also viewed by industry observers as a marketing masterstroke by Dell, positioning the computer-maker as the leading provider of technology to meet the hardware needs of campus IT as well as students, faculty, and administrators.

Besides its blade servers and ubiquitous laptops, Dell will market its DJ digital music players on campuses as an alternative to the popular Apple ( iPods as well as other portable audio devices.

At the University of Washington plans are moving forward to make the Seattle campus the first active user of the Dell-Napster service.

Starting this fall, Dell Services is scheduled to install 10 Dell PowerEdge 1855 blade servers on UW's Seattle campus that will support Napster's SuperPeer cache application, the university announced. This installation is designed to provide Napster music downloads and other content that will be stored on a caching server located within the campus network.

"In this era of pervasive broadband networks and extraordinary new personal devices, it is important for universities to establish mechanisms that provide our students with high quality, legal access to the growing body of content available in digital repositories worldwide," said Dr. Mark Emmert, UW president as part of the Dell announcement. "This relationship with Dell and Napster will provide us with a state-of-the-art approach to downloading music."

"The beauty of this service for our local IT people is that the service is managed almost totally by Napster," said Oren Sreebny, director of client services in Computing & Communications at UW, in response to an email question from Campus Technology. Sreebny worked with Dell and Napster on the agreement for the new service on his campus but said the service is not involving extensive work by the UW IT staff. "The only part we play--aside from negotiating the terms of the contract and paying for it--is to identify for Napster which individuals are eligible for the service," he said.

Sreebny said this initial identification of eligible participants on his campus will be done using the Internet2 standard Shibboleth authentication service (, a system that he says is gaining acceptance with universities and other institutions worldwide.

"We also will be talking to Napster about the potential of their participation in the InCommon Federation ( ), which builds on
the Shibboleth technology to create a federated group of higher education institutions," Sreenbny said.

On the sales and marketing side, Dell will set up a special page where UW faculty, staff and students can purchase discounted computer systems, electronics and Dell DJ digital music players.

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