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7Digital takes on iTunes

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Digital music company 7Digital is to go head-to-head with Apple's iTunes on iPhones and iPads. Or so it hopes.

Ben Drury, announcing the apps today, said that Apple hadn't actually approved them yet, but said he was optimistic. The company already has native Android and Blackberry apps for its store

The British company was the first to sign up the four major labels for DRM-free music, and allows its store to be embedded in any web page. Prices are pretty similar to iTunes, but the 7Digital app will feature offline access and sync wirelessly.

While the iTunes Store allows purchases to be made on an Apple mobile device, well on a mobile phone, with the purchases consolidated, it stops short of full integration. Incredibly, iTunes still can't sync your music collection to the phone without a cable - three years after the launch of the iPhone and the Wi-Fi-equipped iPod Touch.

Eventually, it will get streaming too.

7Digital opened its US download store a year ago. Today 7Digital announced a number of further partnerships that should raise its prominence. The app store will be included in Samsung and Toshiba tablets, and O2 will also promote 7Digital on its phones and music services. Much of 7Digital's early deals were B2B, and it's built on this by publishing APIs to its service. It also provides the Music Store in Ubuntu's Linux.

Will Apple cry foul, and refuse to approve the apps? Apple has approved music services such as Spotify, We7 and Shazam that don't provide a direct retail competitor to digital song downloads. It all depends on how Apple views its iTunes service - and we don't yet know.

If Apple regards iTunes as a kind of "core runtime", in the way that it views the WebKit rendering engine, then it's hard to see the apps being approved. It's Apple's call. But with regulators sniffing around iTunes in Europe - it commands a market share over 70 per cent - then platform integration issues come to the fore. With its experience of Microsoft's browser and platform issues, the European Commission knows how to hum that tune. ®

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