Dell and Napster have struck a deal to include a year’s worth of Napster’s streaming music subscription service into various models of Inspiron and Studio laptop computers for no extra cost. It’s a $60 value that also include 60 free downloads from any song in the Napster catalog.

Computers with the Napster music will initially be available only at the retail stores of Napster parent company Best Buy, but in November will also be for sale on Dell.com.

Dell is no stranger to embedding music into its devices, having struck deals in the past with Universal Music Group to pre-load certain tracks in select computer models. But this is the first time it’s partnered with a music service like Napster to make it happen.

The company’s VP and GM of consumer sales and marketing Michael Tatelman talked with Billboard.biz about the pact.

What’s the motivation for the Napster deal?
Well first, this is a great deal. We had a lot of options when we were thinking about what to do here. And whether we went directly through labels or publishers, this is a really great deal for consumers. It is the first time we’ve added a third-party aggregator service.

Why Napster?
They’ve been rebuilding their capability and platform since the acquisition by Best Buy. I like the breadth of their assortment, particularly in the indie space. We’ve been doing that as well, supporting the indie community on our Dell Lounge shop for music discovery and news that gets a lot of independent bands and music. And they were just really good to work with. It’s a compelling offer for the holidays where you not only get a great system, but a great music solution and a bunch of free tunes.

How much of a factor was Best Buy owning Napster, given their retail presence?
It’s a big deal. It was certainly part of the consideration. Having a great partner like Best Buy with a retail platform in addition to Napster, where we were sure we could get exposure and merchandizing for the offer where people could come in and feel it and see it. That plays a big part.

Most computers have various types of embedded software and services in them these days, like security or internet access, etc. What kind of buy-in or conversion do you see with those?
There’s a tremendous range. It really depends on the app. When we run a special on a Microsoft home and office bundle it can be really high. When we run an anti-virus special, we can get attach rates of 50% or more. In other cases, if it’s a bit more esoteric or up the price curve, it can be lower. So it can be from 5% to 80% depending on the popularity of the offer itself.

You said this is the first time you’ve worked with a music aggregator service. Why now? What’s held you back from doing this earlier?
As you see the evolution of Dell.com and the design component, this is a natural next step. We’ve spent the last year and a half curating exclusive artwork for example so you can get that preconfigured on the outside of your box. We’ve done music bundles with Universal Music. We were the first to launch “Ironman” on the movie side. And now as we look at what other partnerships are out there where we can amplify our presence in the communities in which we’re looking to participate, the music piece has been an obvious next step.

Has there been any advancement that made it easier for you to partner with a music service?
The price point has made it a lot more attractive than it’s been in the past.

There have been rumors that Dell might be considering adding a portable MP3 player device to the mix. Does this Napster deal offer any insight into what you may be planning in that regard?
The whole portable music thing was popular in the press six or eight months ago. The guy who wrote it was embarrassed because nothing really happened. You’ll see us participate in various different screen sizes, but a music player is not in the offing. We’re working on prototypes with China Mobile for [mobile phones]. We’ve got the netbook space. So different levels of portability… and the notion that it could come with an experience like a Napster or some other kind of capability would be something you’d want to access across all your devices. So no on the music player, but I think you’ll see other types of portable products from us over time.

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