HMV Partners With Microsoft for New Music Service

British music retailer HMV Group PLC will launch its own digital music downloading service in the second half of 2005 and will use Microsoftis Windows Media Audio technology, the company announced Wednesday. The Microsoft partnership means users of Appleis iPod will be locked out of using the HMV service to buy music files.

HMV said it would dump some US$19.1 million into the project. What it did not reveal is how big its music library will be or how much it will charge for each download. Appleis iTunes Music Store charges UK?0.79 for a single music file download in Great Britain.

HMVis announcement did not rule out a monthly subscription service, whereby people could download unlimited music files for a flat rate. Online music service Napster runs a similiar type service in the U.S. and Great Britain, charging ?9.95 a month. The files become unusable once a customer terminates their monthly subscription account. Apple Computer does not operate a subscription-based service, opting to sell music cuts on an individual basis, as well as selling complete and partial albums.

The software and hardware needed to access HMVis new service will be available at the retaileris 200 stores across the country and its online shop, the company said.

The online music download business in Great Britain is growing almost monthly. In November, grocery store chain Tesco announced it would soon launch its own online music service. Services now available in the U.K. include, Appleis iTunes, Microsoft MSN, Virgin, and Napster, to name just a few.