updated 6/15/2004 3:11:02 PM ET 2004-06-15T19:11:02

Apple Computers Inc. launched its highly anticipated iTunes Music Store in Europe on Tuesday, expanding the popular digital music service to users in Britain, France and Germany. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said iTunes would be available without subscription. The charge for downloading a single track would be 79 pence ($1.43) in the United Kingdom and 99 euro cents ($1.20) in Germany and France.

Apple plans to launch a pan-European iTunes store, covering those countries not involved in Tuesday's launch, around October, Jobs said at a news conference.

On the eve of Apple's overseas entry, Napster UK Limited, a subsidiary of Roxio Inc., announced an exclusive, three-month marketing deal with Britain's leading broadband service provider, ntl Inc. Napster said its month-old British online music offering would be bundled with ntl's Broadband Plus service package beginning in July.

Microsoft Corp. also announced an expanded relationship with British-based OD2, a leading distributor in Europe's small but growing legal online music business. Microsoft MSN's music product, powered by OD2's SonicSelector jukebox, is already available in the UK, France and Italy but was expanded to Germany on Monday and soon will be offered in Belgium and Spain.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

OD2, meanwhile, also announced special promotions, cutting song prices in half to about 60 cents apiece for new customers and charging only 1 pence per song if users want to just stream the music via Microsoft's plug-in for Windows Media Player 9.

All are jockeying for position in a battle that began in earnest a year ago with Apple's successful iTunes download service in the United States.

So far, iTunes holds the commanding lead in the United States with more than 70 million songs sold.

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