On Monday, Virgin Group subsidiary Virgin Digital launched an
designed to leverage the name recognition of its brick-and-mortar Virgin Megastore while competing with a subscription-based model. While Virgin’s venture does offer music downloads for 99 cents each, it differs from the iTunes Music Store in the requirement that you pay US$7.99 to gain the ability to burn them to CDs or transfer them to a music player that support the Windows Media format. However, you can only play the songs on the computer that was used to purchase them.
Unfortunately, Apple’s iPod MP3 player and iTunes music software don’t support the Windows Media format, and Virgin Digital’s iTunes-like software for managing music is Windows-only. In addition, letting your Virgin Digital subscription lapse will disable all your purchased music. However, the subscription fee is $2 less than the amount RealNetworks and Napster charge, and Virgin hopes to differentiate itself with copious amounts of artist information, including biographies and reviews, as well as future plans to link the store to its cell phone and MP3 player businesses. The store currently boasts a catalog of 1,000,000 tracks, with plans to expand that in the coming months.