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Microsoft readying Australian iTunes store rival

Microsoft Australia is readying an online music downloads service to rival Apple's iTunes store. It will be fully integrated with Windows Vista and available upon Vista's Australian debut.

Microsoft Australia is readying an online music downloads service to rival Apple's iTunes store. It will be fully integrated with Windows Vista and available upon Vista's Australian debut.

The announcement follows the May 2006 launch of a similar service in the US, where Microsoft partnered with MTV to create a download service dubbed "URGE".

Microsoft is unable to extend URGE to the Australian market because, according to Paul Randle, consumer audience marketing manager for Microsoft Australia, "MTV doesn't have an arm here [in Australia]".

As a result, Randle says that Microsoft is currently in talks with local "third party" players that offer similar expertise to MTV, with the hope of launching an "Australian equivalent" of URGE "in the very near future".

Microsoft's tactic of partnering with a third party is vastly different to Apple's iTunes strategy, as Apple runs its store completely independently. In contrast, Microsoft will simply "provide the platform", while leveraging the existing content licensing agreements of a third party to populate the store with tracks.

The service will be completely integrated with Windows Media Player 11 (bundled with Vista), and enable users to download tracks directly to their PC or a portable device.

Randle refused to disclose any details regarding which local third party players it was in contact with, whether movies would be offered in addition to music and local pricing information, but promises the service will be available "when we launch Vista" and offer the "best content Australia has to offer".

Vista's launch is currently slated to occur in January 2007.