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Apple unveils online music store

Jobs: 'There is no legal alternative that's worth beans...'
Written by CNET Networks, Contributor

Jobs: 'There is no legal alternative that's worth beans...'

Apple Computer on Monday unveiled its latest line of digital music products, including a long-awaited internet music store - only available in the US for now - and ultrathin versions of its popular iPod portable MP3 player. Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the Moscone Convention centre in San Francisco and pronounced a new era for digital music consumption, saying that other online music services are either illegal or unattractive. "We were able to negotiate landmark deals with all of the major labels," he said of the company's newly launched iTunes Music Store. "There is no legal alternative that's worth beans." Apple's music store launch has drawn keen interest. Despite its paltry share of the home PC market - about three per cent - the company has set industry benchmarks before, notably with the iPod. The iTunes Music Store is launching with a library of 200,000 tracks, with participation from all five of the major record labels. In addition, the store will list exclusive tracks from 20 artists, including Bob Dylan and U2. The songs cost 99 cents each to download, with no subscription fee, and include the most liberal copying rights of any online service to date. Jobs has been an outspoken opponent of so-called digital rights management (DRM) in the past, arguing that limitations on digital music will undermine the market for legitimate content. The Apple CEO pitched the music store as falling between Napster and fee-based services such as Rhapsody and Pressplay. Until it was shut down in 2001, Napster allowed people to download songs at no cost from other PCs connected to the internet - which, Jobs emphasised, was stealing. Pressplay and Rhapsody allow users to access music for a monthly fee. Songs from the iTunes store can be transferred freely to iPod players, burned on unlimited numbers of CDs and accessed on up to a maximum of three Macintosh computers. Each song in Apple's store can be previewed for 30 seconds at no charge. It is currently available only in the United States. Songs are available only for the Macintosh running the OS X operating system and for iPod, although older versions of iPod require a software upgrade. Jobs said a version for Microsoft's Windows operating system is in the works and expected to launch by the end of the year. iTunes 4, Apple's music jukebox for the Mac, will integrate with the music store. The software will be able to read music files encoded with AAC, a format that Apple says "compresses much more efficiently than older formats like MP3...while delivering quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio." All the songs in the Apple store will be encoded with AAC, although iTunes will also support MP3. iTunes 4 will integrate with Apple's networking technology, called Rendezvous, and will allow several Mac users on a wireless network to share their music collections. The music is streamed rather than downloaded and is accessible only while another person is logged onto the network. Jobs on Monday also unveiled new ultrathin iPod models, advertised as being as thick as two CD cases together. The devices come with 10GB, 15GB and 30GB of storage, costing $299, $399 and $499, respectively. The higher-end iPod versions include a new docking station to connect easily with PCs, as well as an audio-out socket that can be used to connect the devices directly to home stereos. John Borland writes for News.com
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