Apple faces the music

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News is launching an online music service today. It coincides with Amazon's announcement that it will offer an iTunes-like music download service in conjunction with the new, Google-powered G1 phone. But without all the digital rights management interference (can't transfer a song you've paid for to another device etc, etc) that even drives Apple fans to distraction.

So far the music industry has been ineffectual against Apple's first-into-the-market dominance, despite complaints that Apple, not the record labels, enjoy most of the profits.

Now, for the first time, mammoth consumer brands that are worthy opponents to iTunes have stepped up to the mark, while many other, smaller scale arrangements attack round the edges. They include Sony Ericsson's tie up with Omnifone announced yesterday and Nokia's Comes with Music, which pits the phone maker against many of the network operators' own download services.

According to the Financial Times, the big three labels - Vivendi's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group - together own about 40% of MySpace Music joint venture. EMI held out, but joined the group at the last minute. Sony ATV and independent music group The Orchard are also participating.

Apple saw the end of the iPod looming, recognising that for many people, their mobile phone would become their primary music repository and listening device. It was one of the main motivations behind the iPhone.

Yet successful as this groundbreaking device has been - the plan is to have sold 10 million units by the end of the year - devices that ape the iPhone's touchscreen and other innovations are hitting the market, not least the Android-powered G1.

It had better have something up its sleeve now.