online download service fired another salvo this week at Apple rival
iTunes Music Store
by announcing its expansion into new European countries. The service has added Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Spain, The Netherlands and Austria to its roster, and also added services in French and German languages for Switzerland.
That brings MSN Music’s total reach to 17 countries, several more than Apple claims for its iTunes Music Store. Microsoft’s strategy for international expansion is different from Apple’s, however: While Apple goes it alone in each country by negotiating rights with the appropriate licensing bodies and opening its own download service, Microsoft instead partners with existing regional services to provide content for its MSN Music store. With this most recent expansion, Microsoft has bolstered existing partnerships with with CDON.com and Loudeye Corp.’s OD2 service.
Apple’s strategy has produced strong results, however. Apple launched its iTunes Music Store in Europe this past June with service in the UK, France and Germany, and almost instantly became Europe’s best-selling online music download service, selling 800,000 songs in its first week of operations. What’s more, Apple continues to expand its service. At a special event to unveil the iPod Photo held last week in San Jose, Calif., Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the addition of nine more European nations for the iTunes Music Store, and said that iTunes will come to Canada sometime this month.
Europe is an important market for operators of online music services, even though Apple and Microsoft don’t provide specific figures for their European music store sales. Apple’s Jobs noted at last week’s music event that his company has seen a 64 percent growth rate for songs sold from the iTunes Music Store since May, the month before Apple opened the iTunes Music Store to the UK, France and Germany. Apple projected that it would sell more than 17.7 million songs worldwide by the end of October.