On the 15th of June Apple is going to launch an European version of its online music store iTunes. Most likely the service will be available directly after launch.
About a year ago Apple launched iTunes in the US and it turned out to be very successful. They sold over 70 million downloads in their first year, with a peak of 3.3 million downloads in a single week.
Unlike the United States, where Apple pioneered and effectively defined Internet music retailing, in Europe it will be entering a brutally competitive market, which was opened up by rival Microsoft over the past two years.
In addition, Roxio Inc. launched Napster in Britain last month, and Sony Corp said it would launch its Connect store in Britain, Germany and France by the end of June.
Apple will have to unseat Europe's most established downloads provider, OD2, which has three dozen retail partners including Microsoft's MSN and Coca-Cola.
Noting the considerable buzz around iTunes and the growing market for Apple's iPod digital music player, analysts expect Apple to catch rivals quickly in Europe.
"IPods are just selling through the roof. To launch on top of that, I should think it will do well for them over here," said Simon Dyson, an analyst with London-based Informa Media.
He added Apple is on track to sell another three million iPods this fiscal year to end-September, taking the installed base to over four million.
The iPod is the only available portable music player that plays songs from the iTunes music store.
The major music labels have been anxious for industry-backed online music stores to launch in Europe to combat the steady trade in pirated music swapped over the Internet that they say is crippling CD sales.
Earlier this year, Apple complained bitterly that the labels themselves were to blame for the delay of legitimate music services, saying the licensing red tape was bogging down its launch plans.
Napster, which started in the UK last month, announced on Monday it had extended its music library to 700,000 songs -- the most in Europe.
Apple has kept the specifics of its plans in Europe a closely guarded secret. The company is expected to detail next week which countries it will serve and with how many songs.