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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Apple to offer cheap online music
Steve Jobs launching the new music service
Apple boss Steve Jobs unveiled the music service

Apple Computer has said it will give its customers the chance to download music for 99 cents (62p) per song, without subscription fees.

Apple said on Monday the online store will offer some 200,000 songs from music giants BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal and Warner.

Customers can download songs from artists such as U2, Eminem, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Sting.

The move comes after weeks of speculation the computer giant would go into the controversial online music business.

Rumours that Apple would take over the entertainment giant Universal Music to make this venture easier have been circulating for a while, but so far Apple said it has made no offer for Vivendi Universal's music unit.

Legal alternative?

Apple's online music store offers an alternative to free music-swapping services and services run by the major record labels.

The new Ipod
The new Ipods have bigger hard drives

"It's not free, but it's 99 cents a song, pretty doggone close," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said.

"There's no legal alternative that's worth beans."

Major record companies have been trying to shut down free music-swapping services such as Napster because they are afraid they would eat into its profits.

The Apple venture, called "iTunes Music Store" allows customers to download songs as well as "burn" music for their own personal use and make unlimited copies of the songs onto CDs, which can also be copied without restrictions.

The songs will be offered in AAC audio format, rather than MP3, as Apple says this offers better quality sound.

For now the service is only available in the US and only for Mac users, though the company plans a Windows version by the end of the year.

Music to go

At the same time, Apple unveiled new versions of its popular iPod handheld digital music player with bigger hard drives.

The player is the size of a deck of playing cards and can hold thousands of songs in digital format.

The redesigned iPods are thinner and lighter than previous models and have back-lit buttons.

The gadget is available in 10-gigabyte, 15-gigabyte and 30-gigabyte models and cost $299, $399 and $499 in the US.

The new iPods are in versions that work on Mac computers and also on computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system.

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