Apple Computer on Thursday launched the long-awaited Windows-compatible version of its iTunes online music service, promising a wider library of songs and new features to maintain its lead in an increasingly competitive market.
“THIS ISN’T some baby version of iTunes. It’s the whole thing,” Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a presentation in which he demonstrated the new software and service.
Apple’s online music service will feature more than 400,000 tracks by the end of the month, Jobs said.
Jobs said the new version of iTunes would also offer a library of 5,000 audio books and allow parents to set a monthly allowance of up to $200 for children to download songs, an attempt to cut back on the illicit file-swapping that the record industry has challenged in court.
The Macintosh version of the download service has sold more than 13 million songs since launch, Jobs said, citing data from Nielsen SoundScan showing that as of last week it accounted for about 70 percent of all legal downloads.
“This has been the birth of legal downloading,” Jobs said.
With the Windows version, Apple is looking to bring iTunes to a far wider audience: the 90 percent-plus of personal computers that use Microsoft’s Windows operating system. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
The launch on Thursday also means that Apple will be in time for the crucial holiday shopping season, which traditionally gets under way after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in late November.
But analysts have said that Apple may have a hard time making inroads in the Windows market for digital music, because there are competing services already available, such as MusicMatch and another called BuyMusic.com.
The pioneering file-swapping service Napster has also been resurrected as a pay-for-use music service, now under parent company Roxio.
Apple Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson has said that the Windows launch of iTunes would be a Trojan horse for the company, spurring more sales of its popular iPod digital music players, which have also been popular with Windows users.
Apple said on Wednesday that it had shipped 336,000 iPod units in the September-ended quarter, a rise of 140 percent from the year earlier.
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