“Spurred by the runaway success of iTunes, Apple Computer Inc.’s online music store, competitors are readying their own music download services in a surge of activity that record executives see pulling the music industry out of a three-year slump. A crowded field is gearing up to offer single songs for sale, including retailers Amazon.com Inc. and Buy.com, and leading Internet service providers like AOL Time Warner’s America Online,” writes Sue Zeidler for Reuters.
“Others likely to compete are a re-launched Napster, the song-swap pioneer that was idled by copyright infringement litigation in 2001, and Apple itself, which even competitors credit with demonstrating the power of an easy-to-use system and competitive pricing,” writes Zeilder. “‘There’s going to be a gold rush in the fall, with a whole bunch of services eyeing the a la carte download market,’ said Lee Black, analyst with Jupiter Research. ‘Everybody wants to get it going for Christmas.'” Apple’s service, which enables music fans to download songs for 99 cents each, sold 5 million tracks within its first eight weeks, outpacing subscription-based services launched by the record labels in their struggle to compete with free unauthorized services like Kazaa and now-shuttered Napster.”
Zeidler reports, “Now, analysts say, the race is on to copy Apple’s success for the much larger market of Windows-based PC users. Online retailer Buy.com may be the first to the finish line when it announces the launch of a new music download service in New York next Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said. Buy.com, which made its reputation as discount Web site for electronics and consumer goods, will position itself as an alternative to Apple’s iTunes, although it has not yet secured licensing from all five major record labels, according to a record industry source. Industry sources and analysts said other competitors are also keen to launch download services before Apple introduces its promised Windows version of iTunes later this year. Analysts expect Apple to launch that expanded service by Thanksgiving to spur holiday sales of its popular iPod digital music player. The current version of iTunes is restricted to Mac users, about 3 percent of the overall computer market.”
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