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Samsung plans own music service

Korean company teams with MusicNet for European service that will work with its forthcoming MP3 players.

Aiming to better compete with Apple Computer's iTunes, Samsung on Friday announced that it will develop its own music service in conjunction with a new series of portable players that will debut later this year.

Samsung is tapping New York-based MusicNet to power the service, which will offer both download sales and subscription options. The service will initially be available in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, but Samsung says it hopes to expand throughout Europe and Asia.

The move follows Microsoft's announcement in July that it will launch its Zune player and service, competing directly with former partners, including Samsung, Creative Labs, iRiver and others. Until announcing the Zune, Microsoft had focused on getting others to build devices and music services that used the company's Windows Media Audio format. The various devices and music services were marketed under Microsoft's PlaysForSure brand, an effort that has been thrown into question now that Microsoft is developing the Zune.

Samsung said the service will work with a number of its new media players, including the striking new K5 player, which sports a built-in speaker system.

"Our partnership with MusicNet completes our product package," Seungsoo Park, vice president of Samsung's digital audio-video unit, said in a statement. Park said the company selected MusicNet because of its experience in creating other such services. MusicNet provides access to major-label music for a number of services, including Yahoo, MTV Networks' Urge and MusicGremlin, according to a MusicNet representative.

Samsung's decision also follows Nokia's announcement earlier this month that it would buy digital-music distributor Loudeye.

After spending years trying to compete against Apple's iTunes and iPod combination through a variety of devices and music services that could interoperate, many of Apple's rivals are now trying to build integrated devices and services.

Gartner analyst Michael McGuire said Microsoft has provided little clarity for its PlaysForSure partners as to how much support they will see going forward or how Zune will work with their players and services. As a result, he said he expects to see others follow Samsung's lead.

"Hardware makers make their money leveraging their manufacturing capacity," he said. "It's not good to let a lot of those things run idle. I think you can expect a lot of them to be doing similar types of things until there is more clarity."