Apple's digital music distribution competitor Napster yesterday announced it has sold over five million downloads since launch October 2003.

Apple in January revealed it has sold 30 million tracks in its first eight months of service, with downloads boosted by its launch of iTunes Music Store for Windows, and an anticipated increase of sales to come as a result of its US promotion with soft drinks maker Pepsi-Cola.

In a positive spin on the news, Napster calls itself the "first PC-only digital music service" to achieve such figures. It also claims to have served "hundreds of millions" of page views.

Alexa traffic rankings reveal that while initial interest in Napster's site was high, traffic there has fallen 24 per cent in the last few months, though there has been some slight resurgence in interest in recent weeks.

Napster/Roxio CEO Chris Gorog said: "This important milestone is a testament to the quality of the Napster experience and the strength and continuity of our senior management team, which is comprised of nearly all the same music-industry professionals that have led the company for years."

Mercury News last week said: "Napster is losing money, and top executives have left the company, including its president, chief financial officer, vice president of programming and head of corporate communications as well as a key board member."

In the same vein he said: "In this competitive market, Napster is defining itself as an immersive experience." Napster anticipates generating $20 million in music sales this year.

Napster parent Roxio reported a net third quarter 2004 loss of $25.6 million compared to a loss of $9.2 million in the year-ago quarter.

It appears that the company was also spurned by leading PC manufacturer HP in favour of Apple's digital-music offerings.