iTunes Music Store launches with 200K+ songs

Apple today introduced the iTunes Music Store, an online music store that Apple bills as "Downloads done right." The service provides users with access to over 200,000 songs without any subscription fees.

The iTunes Music Store -- designed to work hand in hand with Apple's new iTunes 4 software and the new iPod models also announced today -- provides users with the ability to burn songs onto an unlimited number of CDs for personal use, listen to songs on an unlimited number of iPods, and play songs on up to three Macs. What's more, the iTunes Music Store is Mac-exclusive, at least for the moment -- Apple says a Windows-compatible version will come later this year.

Artists from the five major commercial music publishers -- BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal and Warner -- are all represented on the iTunes Music Store, and Apple's new service has even managed to secure exclusive tracks from more than 20 artists like Bob Dylan, U2, Eminem, Sheryl Crow and Sting.

Users can listen to free 30-second excerpts from songs, search by title, artist, album, browse by genre, artist and album, watch free videos, then purchase and download their favorite songs or complete albums.

The iTunes Music Store leverages Dolby's Advanced Audio Codec, or AAC -- a key QuickTime 6 and MPEG-4 audio technology that produces smaller files at 128Kbps with superior sound quality than MP3 files, according to Apple.

The iTunes Music Store has been integrated into Apple's newly released iTunes 4, available for free download from Apple's Web site, and requires iTunes 4 to work. The software and service require Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later.

The iTunes Music Store requires a valid credit card with a U.S. billing address. In his speech to attendees of Monday's special event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., Apple CEO Steve Jobs indicated that Apple was working on ways to open the iTunes Music Store to international users as well.

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