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Apple touts iTunes' UK 80% market share

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Analysis Let there be no doubt that High Street music retailers Virgin and HMV to the UK's digital music market is shaking the tree. Even the formerly lofty Apple has felt it necessary to issue a public statement stressing its market leadership.

Apple today told World+Dog that it holds first place in the UK digital music arena, commanding an 80 per cent share of the market. It cited figures from the Official Charts Company, which monitors one-off downloads from all the key digital music services and compiles them into its weekly singles chart.

Apple also claimed the UK iTunes Music Store offers more than 1.7m songs - ahead of the 1.6m tracks Napster UK said earlier this week it was offering.

Yes, like Apple, Napster UK also feels the competitive pressure from HMV and Virgin, and on Monday put out the first usage statistics in its 15-month history, as we reported here. To be fair, Apple has consistently put out download totals since ITMS launched in the US in April 2003, incorporating numbers from the UK when the British store went live in June 2004, a month after Napster UK did.

Apple remained silent when retail giants Tesco and Woolworths launched their online music offerings during the tail end of 2004, but now it's up against a more solid threat: the brand equity that HMV and Virgin have among the UK's music consumers. As we've argued before, Apple has the advantage of iPod and its close ties with ITMS, but there remains a consistent number of digital music buyers whose computer is their prime playback system. With no favoured portable player to tie them to a particular online store, they are free to buy from the service with the biggest catalogue and/or the cheapest prices.

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