Leading British supermarket chain Tesco has launched a music download service. Tesco says the online store, at www.tesco.com, offers more than 500,000 titles at a flat rate of £0.79 each ($1.46).

Leading British supermarket chain Tesco has launched a music download service.

Tesco says the online store, at www.tesco.com, offers more than 500,000 titles at a flat rate of £0.79 each ($1.46). Full albums are priced at £7.99 ($14.81).

Downloads are encoded at a rate of 192kbps and are offered in Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format, enabling tracks to be played on more than 70 different portable music players. Content is licensed from the four majors and and a host of independent labels; more catalog titles are expected to be added in the coming months.

In an opening salvo at Apple Computer's market-leading iTunes Music Store, Tesco.com CEO Laura Wade Gery says the service's broader compatability will appeal to a "far greater audience" than its rival.

"When you buy a DVD you wouldn't expect the retailer to dictate what player you played it on would you? And yet that is exactly what is happening in this market," Gery says in a statement. "As the price of portable digital music players falls, customers will demand more choice. That is what we're delivering," she adds.

British telecoms giant Cable & Wireless provides the service's technical infrastructure.