Apple iTunes: now available in the UK

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You’ve bought the player, now download the tracks without having to use an American address and credit card! In a visit to London Apple boss Steve Jobs announced the long-awaited launch of iTunes for the UK, France and Germany. Previously the service was only available in the US.

Prices are 79p (0.99 Euros) per track or £7.99 per album (though chart CDs on www.cdwow.com will only cost you a £1 more – and that’s with all the casing and artwork). Apple claims there will be over 700,000 songs from all five music companies plus dozens of independents – though we understand many of them have still yet to sign up.

“The number one online music store in the world has finally come to the UK, France and Germany,” said Jobs at the London press conference. “With a huge catalogue of over 700,000 songs, breakthrough prices of just €0.99 and £0.79 per song and seamless integration with Apple’s wildly popular iPod, we think this is the digital music store that Europe has been waiting for.”

Around 500,000 tracks have been downloaded legally in the UK so far this year – a tiny proportion of the US market where millions are downloaded every year. Napster launched a rival service a fortnight ago and OD2 – Europe’s biggest online music distiributor – has just launched Sonic Selector with microsoft. Sony is also expected to grab a slice of the action with its Connect service due later this month.

Artists who have signed up for iTunes include: Anastasia, Ash, The Beastie Boys, Beginner, Black Eyed Peas, The Corrs, Jamie Cullum, The Cure, The Darkness, Arielle Dombasle, Bebel Gilberto, Herbert Groenemeyer, PJ Harvey, The Hives, Indochine, Norah Jones, Keane, Bob Marley, George Michael, Eddy Mitchell, Moby, Pascal Obispo, The Pixies, Rosenstolz, Seeed, Snow Patrol and Mano Solo.

Here are a list of iTunes features

* “iMix,” a way for users to publish playlists of their favourite songs on the iTunes Music Store for other users to preview, rate and purchase. iMix creates a virtual iTunes community, enabling users to discover new music recommended by fellow music fans and rate the iMixes published by other iTunes users

* Party Shuffle,” a playlist that automatically chooses songs from a user’s music library, displays just-played and upcoming songs, and allows users to add, delete and rearrange upcoming songs on the fly. Party Shuffle is, claims Apple, the ultimate DJ at any gathering and a great way for users to get reacquainted with their personal music library

* More than 5,000 audiobooks which can be purchased with one click and listened to on any Mac or Windows computer as well as on iPods. iTunes is the only digital music jukebox that allows users to purchase audiobooks in the same easy way that they purchase music

* Instant registration on the iTunes Music Store for AOL Europe customers using their existing screen names and passwords with direct links to buy songs from the iTunes Music Store in the UK, France and Germany. Exclusive recordings from Sessions@AOL and AOL’s Broadband Rocks will be available on the iTunes Music Store in the UK, France and Germany later this month

* The ability to create and print CD jewel case inserts for albums or compilation discs, combining album art and track lists using professionally designed templates. For compilation CDs, iTunes will automatically generate a mosaic of album covers based on the chosen songs

* Automatic WMA to AAC conversion, enabling Windows users to automatically create iTunes versions of their songs encoded in unprotected WMA.

For more information go to Apple iTunes website.

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