HMV Digital set to take on iTunes

CD and video seller HMV is set to take on Apple's iTunes store with the launch of a new site, HMV Digital.

The site is a significant departure for the company, whose previous online store sold only physical media such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs - and with its launch, HMV has users of Apple's iPhone, iPad and other digital players squarely in its sights.

Most tracks are priced at 99p - the same as iTunes - but there are significant discounts on Top 40 singles, some of which are available for as little as 40p.

The site is hoping to make quality its big selling point, offering MP3 tracks at a bit rate of 320kbps - the highest commercially available.

But as big as the leap might be for the high-street retailer, HMV may have taken the plunge a little too late.

Just as HMV has begun offering downloads, rumour has it that Apple is set to provide streaming services from its iTunes store, having built its biggest ever data centre in North Carolina. The 500,000 square foot facility is due to come online early next year.

Google, too, has recently hinted at plans for a cloud-based streaming music service for mobiles based on its Android OS.

HMV's new music store is powered by e-commerce firm 7Digital, which also provides the technology used to sell tracks from streaming web site Spotify. HMV bought a 50 per cent stake in the company last September.

"Some people tend to think of us as a traditional retailer, but the fact is we've completely transformed our business," Melanie Armstrong, HMV's head of music in told today's Sun.

"The launch of hmvdigital means we have a world-class music download platform," she added.