Microsoft Beats Apple To European Music Downloads, Singles As High As US$1.91

The battle for the European digital music download market has begun, and it isnit Apple firing the first shot. According to an article at Guardian Unlimited, Microsoft has teamed up with a company called OD2, founded by singer Peter Gabriel, to bring digital music downloads to European customers.

The service will be accessed through a new tab in Microsoftis Windows Media Player, and will allow customers to reportedly choose from over 200,000 songs for .99 Euros (US$1.12 as of press time) for singles. In British Pounds, songs will be priced slightly higher, at 75 pence (US$1.20), with the BBC saying that some songs will be priced at either 99 pence (US$1.59), or £1.19 (US$1.91). The BBC also reports that albums will be priced starting at £7.99 (US$12.82), or €12.49 (US$14.13). Differences in pricing in US dollars can be attributed to currency differences between the US Dollar, the Pound Sterling, and the Euro. There is no subscription fee for the service.

In comparison, Apple charges US$.99 per single, and US$9.99 for most full albums through its iTunes Music Store (iTMS). Recently, we have been seeing full albums priced as high as US$11.99 at the iTMS. Apple also does not charge a subscription fee.

The service is being pushed as part of the MSN Music Club, an existing service for streaming music through Window Media Player 9 (WMP), and will launch with some 200,000 songs from all five major labels. Windows Media Player is the technology used by the much lambasted, but the MSN Music Club is available directly from the Windows Media Player application, similar to Appleis iTMS being accessed through iTunes.

According to the BBC report, the service is not a response to Appleis iTMS. The news service references Charles Grimsdale, CEO of OD2, the company managing Microsoftis new service:

Microsoftis service was not a direct response to iTunesi popularity, but was designed to please fans who were reluctant to sign up for a subscription, [OD2 CEO Charles Grimsdale] said. It had also been made possible because record companies had "opened up" their licensing requirements in the last six months, he said.

This, despite the fact that Bill Gates said just in July of this year that his company was considering a music service. Apple launched its own iTMS in April, almost two months before Mr. Gates said his company was considering something similar. From a C|Net article on July 25th:

Responding to questions at an analyst meeting here Thursday, Gates indicated that any music store project would be more a matter of providing computer users with added convenience--and presumably, keeping people using Microsoft software--rather than a direct moneymaker.

"Itis maybe a feature your platform should offer, but itis not like youire going to make some (big) markup," Gates said.

The service is available now to European Windows users through the Windows Media Player 9 app.