Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store has seized an 80% share of the British digital download market in less than 18 months of opening for business, the computer giant said today (Sept. 7). It's the fir

Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store has seized an 80% share of the British digital download market in less than 18 months of opening for business, the computer giant said today (Sept. 7). It's the first time Apple has disclosed such details on its U.K. business.

Apple's sales figures were collated by charts compiler the Official U.K. Charts Company, a joint-venture of trade bodies the British Phonographic Industry and the British Assn. of Record Dealers. The BPI recently reported that the blossoming digital music market in the United Kingdom had already generated 13 million download sales this year, against 5.7 million for the entire year of 2004. Based on the OCC figures, iTunes would account for about 10.5 million of Britain's download sales this year.

The iTunes service, which went live on June 15, 2004, now boasts more than 1.7 million titles licensed from the four major record companies and more than 1,000 independent labels.

Apple's declaration caps an unusually busy week in the national online music market. In the past seven days, powerhouse traditional retailers Virgin and HMV have launched bespoke services in competition to iTunes. Earlier this week, rival download store Napster U.K. revealed its subscriber base (750,000 users) for the first time.

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