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Woolworths to take on Apple iTunes store

Windows-only music shop to launch for Xmas

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UK High Street retailer Woolworths will this year launch a digital music download service, the company's parent revealed today.

In an announcement detailing the Woolworths Group's interim results for its 2004 fiscal year, the company said the Woolworths-branded service would launch "in the run up to Christmas".

However, company insiders revealed that the build-up to the launch will start "within the next few weeks".

Woolworths isn't a digital music novice. In May 2003, its E.UK subsidiary announced a partnership with little-known European digital music distributor Digital Distribution Domain (DX3) to provide album downloads from Universal Music Group and EMI through its Streets Online web sites.

Streets Online currently offers some 150,000 songs for download in Windows Media format. Tracks are priced at 99p, albums from £6.99 - £1 less than the very much better known UK iTunes Music Store. Some downloads may not be burned to CD, copied to a portable player. Others are available on a time-limited basis.

Woolworths' own-brand store will be called Download@woolworths.co.uk and will tie in to its existing online CD retail operation, which focuses on the top 50 singles and top 100 albums. Like ITMS, Download@woolworths.co.uk will not offer a subscription service. Individual tracks will retail from 79p, while albums will cost £7.99 and up.

The songs will only be made available in Windows Media format, using Windows Media Player 10's 'Janus' DRM technology.

Download@woolworths.co.uk will feature content from all four major labels, and "numerous independent and small British record companies", the company said.

At this stage, the two services will remain separate, and according to a company spokesman, there are "no plans" to integrate the digital delivery operations that underpin them. However, the spokesman confirmed that DX3 has been involved in the creation of Download@woolworths.co.uk. ®

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