iTMS Launched In UK, France, Germany With 700,000 Songs

As expected, Apple began the European invasion for the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) today. Apple launched the service today for the UK, France, and Germany, offering pricing comparable to its US service at €0.99 (US$1.19 at todayis exchange rates) in France and Germany, and £0.79 in the UK (US$1.43). The service is launching with more than 700,000 songs -- more than competing services in Europe -- and more than 5,000 audio books.

Apple says that a "European Union" version of the service will be launched in October of this year to address the rest of the market.

The new European iTMS services will offer the same usage rights currently found in the US. Users will be able to "play songs on up to five personal computers, burn a single song onto CDs an unlimited number of times, and burn the same playlist up to seven times and listen to their music on an unlimited number of iPods."

In addition, the service offers some of the newest features found in the US version of the service, including gift certificates, iMix, Party Shuffle, CD insert printing, and the ability to convert unprotected WMA files to AAC. European AOL users will be "instantly" registered with iTunes, just as they are in the US. Not mentioned were radio charts, movie trailers, radio charts, and the iTMS wish list, all features recently introduced in the US.

The event was kicked off by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, on-hand for a press event in London. According to live coverage of the event from Macworld UK, Mr. Jobs sounded some the same themes used to launch the service in the US.

This includes the biggest issue, competition with the P2P networks. Mr. Jobs talked about reliability issues in the P2P networks, and said that buying oneis music legally is "not stealing, itis good Karma." These are points mentioned in all of the major iTMS-related Apple events, as it was widely believed when the iTMS was launched that it could not compete with free, pirated material.

Mr. Jobs also repeated the idea that most users do not want to rent their music, a talking point that he and other Apple execs have raised repeatedly when asked about offering a subscription service.

"You own the music," said Mr. Jobs. "No subscription fees. The experiment has been done -- people donit want to rent the music, they want to own it. If I have to pay ten dollars a month to listen to my favorite song, thatis $1,000 after ten years. I donit want to do that, I want to own my music."

A new point was brought into the mix, however, as Mr. Jobs told the press that "Web site music stores suck" in reference to services from, Wal-Mart, and others that operate through a standard browser. Yesterday, Microsoft announced a new music service in the UK that operates through Windows Media Player, instead of a browser.

Macworld UK reports that "[Mr.] Jobs explained how the buying interface and jukebox work as a standalone application that all integrates together. iSome people say iTunes is the best Windows software ever writteni, Jobs said proudly."

Tying his points together, Mr. Jobs said "this is how we have competed with piracy -- we are offering a far better service."

You can find more information on the three new services at Appleis dedicated Web page for each of them (UK, France, Germany).