Sources: Apple Nears Music Service Launch

Apple Computer is expected to launch a digital music service as early as next month.

Apple Computer is expected to launch a digital music service as early as next month, sources confirm to Billboard Bulletin. Digital-music executives familiar with the situation say Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has been meeting with the major record companies to generate support for the venture.

Details about how the service will function are unclear. However, the offering -- the first music service tailored to Apple users, who represent less than 3% of the PC market -- is expected to be tied to the company's iTunes digital jukebox and allow for the download and transfer of tracks to its popular iPod portable player. Thus far, the iPod plays only MP3 files, but it has the capability to be upgraded to play more secure formats.

Apple has avoided digital rights management due to its restrictive nature. As Jobs said in an interview with Bulletin last year, "We think consumers need the rights and have the rights to listen to their legally acquired music however they want, on whatever devices they own."

Apple representatives had no comment.