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international news_4th September, 2004

itunes Challenged

Apple's all conquering online music service, itunes today receives the biggest threat to its online music download realm when industry giant Microsoft steps up to the challenge with the launch of their MSN Music service.

Apple's itunes has fought off competition from some companies with great potential to take a strong foothold in the market such as Napster and has capitalized on the success of the ipod and its domination of the portable mp3 player market.

But if anyone has the marketing muscle and financial backup to take on Apple, arch rivals Microsoft have. Using either a web interface or through the near industry standard Windows Media Player users can purchase tracks for just 99 cents, the same cost as itunes. Launching the service with a choice of over 500,000 tracks the service plans to expand within weeks to include the same number and range of titles that is currently available to users of itunes.

Aimed not primarily to make money from the downloads the service forms part of Microsoft's larger ambitions to become an established hub for digital multimedia entertainment, a market that will grow exponentially in the next few years. It wants all Internet media to be distributed via the MSN portal, securing Major League Baseball content and the creation of a subscription based broadband video and TV show service.

While Microsoft failed on heading off established competition in the home console market, (PS2 consoles still outsell the Xbox), its pretty clear that Microsoft aren't going to give up this fight so easily, not with the future of home entertainment at stake although to make any serious headway they need to press hardware manufacturers to come up with a viable, attractive alternative to the ipod.

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