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Download service to be iPod smasher?

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Microsoft is offering music for download in a move with more than an echo of Apple's iPod service.

Subscribers to MSN Music can listen to streamed songs for as little as 1p per track or download them for 99p. Albums are available from £7.99. The service offers one million tracks from 3,000 record labels.

The service is supported by the release of a new version of Windows Media Player and the availability of devices from Creative Labs and Samsung. The "Portable Media Center" from Creative has a 3.75 inch screen and storage for 80 hours of video, 5,000 songs and thousands of pictures.

The website includes a guide to portable players which warns: "Unlike most new portable players, the iPod is not equipped to play WMA files."

Microsoft is releasing Windows Media Player 10 which includes a "Digital Media Mall" service which links to various online media stores including CinemaNow, MusicNow, Napster, Wal-Mart Music and MSN Music. It also aims to make it easier for consumers to transfer music and video to 70 devices running Windows Mobile. It also supports Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10.

Microsoft's press release is here. ®

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