We could be about to get a real competitor to iTunes. Amazon is to go head-to-head with Apple’s music download store later this year with a new service offering DRM-free MP3 tracks that will play on more or less any portable device.

The market for downloadable music is worth a fortune - £1bn worldwide, according to The Guardian – and lots of companies, including Microsoft, have been vying for a piece of the action. But Apple has proven the only big winner so far, with the combination of the iPod and iTunes (and soon, the iPhone) convincing many customers that there’s only one company to go for when listening to music on the move.

So what makes Amazon any different from the rest of the so-called iTunes killers? It’s a huge, growing e-commerce giant, of course, but that alone would not be enough. However, it’s possible that Amazon might attract those who have so far rejected iTunes. Downloadable music is big business, and yet only a small proportion of internet users use it on a regular basis.

Amazon, on the other hand, has become the first port of call for millions of people who want to buy books, CDs, DVDs, software, toys and consumer electronics devices. Encouraging those people to click on an additional tab on the Amazon home page might be easier than encouraging them to download iTunes and join the digital music revolution from scratch. And those people with non-Apple MP3 players (Apple reckons it has 40 to 50 percent of the UK market, a significantly lower share than elsewhere in the world), might be tempted.