Microsoft is planning to launch an iTunes-style music service for Europe allowing music lovers to download singles and albums through its Windows Media Player technology.
The MSN-branded store is due to launch today in the UK followed by the rest of Europe through September.
The new store, which will beat Apple’s competing iTunes music store in attacking Europe, will provide music fans with access to more than 200,000 tracks.
Known in the US as Tiscali Club, the service is run on behalf of Microsoft by online music company Tiscali Music Club. As with Apple Computer’s iTunes, the stores will be accessible inside the music-playing software itself, by clicking on a tab in the Windows Media Player premium services section.
While Apple Computer has yet to launch its iTunes music store in Europe, citing unresolved European copyright and digital rights management (DRM) issues, its iTunes music service launched in June saw close to five million tracks downloaded within the first eight weeks of its launch. Over 46pc of the songs on the site were purchased as albums and more than 80pc of the 200,000 songs available on the store have been purchased at least once.
Meanwhile, a competing US online music service called Pressplay, recently purchased by Roxio and renamed Napster, is planning to launch a European store this winter.
It is understood that both new stores from Microsoft and Pressplay will offer songs for around €1 per track.
By John Kennedy