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US PC users get in on the action

Apple unveils iTunes Music Store for Windows

At a special event held Thursday at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the long-awaited iTunes software for Windows. However, European users could have some wait.

The service provides not only digital music playback features for Windows users, but also offers them access to the iTunes Music Store. Both iTunes and the iTunes Music Store have hitherto been limited for use by Macintosh users.

iTunes for Windows is identical to its Macintosh counterpart. And like its Mac counterpart, iTunes for Windows is available as a free download from Apple's website.

iTunes for Windows sports the same features Mac users have grown accustomed to in their software — the ability to burn their audio files to CDs and rip files from CD to MP3. What's more iTunes for Windows supports Rendezvous file sharing. Rendezvous is Apple's term for an open zero-configuration networking standard. As it's deployed in iTunes, users can access each other's playlists through the iTunes software as long as they're working on the same physical subnetwork as each other (ostensibly, a local area networking environment in a home). Music can also be shared between Macs and Windows computers.

Accessing the iTunes Music Store through the Windows iTunes software is the same process as well — in fact, Jobs noted during his presentation that both Mac and Windows versions of iTunes access the iTunes Music Store the same way, through the same servers. As a result, files purchased from Mac or Windows iTunes software is identical: the music is encoded using Dolby Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) and has the same Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology deployed, with the same restrictions: iTunes allows users to rip their Music Store-bought files to CDs as many times as they want; they can also share music on up to three computers, or synchronise their music with an iPod.

System requirements for iTunes 4.1 for Windows call for a PC equipped with Windows XP or Windows 2000. Use of the iTunes Music Store requires a valid credit card with a US billing address. A date for European launch has still not been announced.

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