Rivals Ready to Take a Bite of Apple

Like a faded rock star determined to make a comeback, the record industry is looking to return to the online music stage in a very big way in coming months. 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 and Buy.com, and leading Internet service providers like AOL Time Warner's America Online.

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. "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. Now, analysts say, the race is on to copy Apple's success for the much larger market of Windows-based PC users.

News source: Reuters

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